Benjamin Franklin Day: Honoring the 75th Marshall Plan Anniversary
Ambassador Amy Gutmann at the inaugural Ben Franklin Day event
“Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin” in Berlin, Germany
July 13, 2022
Professor Dr. Kroemer, thank you for hosting this celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. It is my honor to share this occasion with you.
The hall you entered is graced by an inscription from Goethe, which reads: Wissenschaft und Kunst gehören der Welt an, und vor ihnen verschwinden die Schranken der Nationalität. (“Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality.”)
You might ask, what does Goethe have to do with our transatlantic partnership or the Marshall Plan? Quite simply, I would say: everything.
Respect, responsibility, and reconciliation shared across national boundaries. The Marshall Plan embodied these and other transnational values. The Plan was unique in requiring the active participation and cooperation of every partner country. Reflecting the lessons of history, the Plan also embraced the great potential of the future. Seventy-five years later, one can track the ongoing impact of the Marshall Plan in real terms today – right here at the Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin. This commemoration is so special because it honors the past while celebrating the future. I am sure that its namesake, Benjamin Franklin, would be very, very proud.
For 18 years, I served as President of the University founded by Benjamin Franklin. Thanks to Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania–UPenn or Penn, as we call it—boasts America’s first medical school and hospital, all located in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy. Franklin’s philosophy of civically engaged education was also ahead of its time. “Tell me, and I forget,” Franklin said: “teach me, and I may remember; involve me, and I learn.” This maxim can also be applied to the Marshall Plan. Involvement of every country in crafting the actual Plan was key to its success.
Ben (as we call him) was driven by the winning combination of intellectual curiosity and public service. He modeled public service through scientific experimentation and innovation. He once said that he was sorry to be born so soon because he would not have “the happiness of knowing what will be known a hundred years hence.”
So too George Marshall could never have imagined the full impact and legacy of the plan he announced 75 years ago at my alma mater, Harvard University. Central to the Marshall Plan’s legacy is the firm commitment of the United States, Germany and our transatlantic allies to promote shared democratic values, to support mutual economic prosperity, to provide for transatlantic security, and to work together to confront global challenges.
Major crises have recently put this commitment to a supreme test. One of those crises is of course Russia’s brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the united international response it has demanded. The other crisis that tests our shared values is the COVID-19 pandemic. How right Goethe was: the great gifts of science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the boundaries of nations. So too the viral plagues of epidemics respect no national boundaries.
Not often in life do we get to have the final word on a subject. The definitive analysis of what we got right – and wrong – with COVID-19 will not be written for some years to come. But this pandemic has proved one thing beyond any reasonable doubt. For the sake of saving human life itself, we need to take both science and solidarity seriously, both within and across national boundaries. We need scientifically and ethically sound roadmaps for navigating public health crises. Everyone needs to invest in saving the lives of people we may never know.
The faculty and researchers here at Charité, at UPenn, and at research institutions all around the world are part of a critically important global network. We know the contours of the challenges – and the opportunities – that our world faces right now. But we cannot possibly know with certainty what precisely lies ahead.
What is our surest way to meet whatever may come? We must strongly support diverse, inclusive, and well-funded research communities—and to protect them from political interference. To serve their critically important public purpose, research institutions and researchers must be granted the fullest academic freedom to do their work and to collaborate with one another. Only with such well-supported communities will we learn from one another how to think globally, plan empathetically, and engage civically.
This too for me is one of the most consequential lessons to be learned from the Marshall Plan. I would like to thank all those present here today for your dedication and commitment. Thank you for sharing your passion for learning. Goethe got it right. Ben Franklin got it right. And so have you.
Today we would like to add a new tribute to the transatlantic memorial in the entrance. It is for all of you. And it reads:
Embodied by four historic campuses across Berlin, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin serves as living tribute to the German reunification and international cooperation in times of crisis. On July 13th, 2022 –the very first Benjamin Franklin Day – we honor the 75th Marshall Plan Anniversary and celebrate the Charité’s transatlantic legacy.