Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Long Time No Blog

I've been preparing for Christmas, and working such hours and at such a pace that I am sure a nervous breakdown would be in the offing, were I not about to take two months' off to finish my book.

All the things I would have commented, and to which I would have linked, are by now passé. Those about which I am still thinking are nowhere near digested, and so I pass on commenting them for now.

I would say one thing, however, about Stanley Cavell's new book, Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow. The book may be as important asThe Claim of Reason. The essay on Astaire’s assertion of (the right to) praise merits and will continue to merit the close attention and critical energies of professors in every human discipline, perhaps most especially those who work in registers not often associated with the humanities, these days.

I will, one day soon, produce the list of highest praise: the elenchus of books I would see on a list of required freshman university at every institution of higher learning in the United States.
A good deal of Cavell’s work would find itself on such a list. This new book is making a bid, but there is a resistance (whether in the text, or in myself, or both, I cannot tell as yet, the Cavell himself would only approve of my acknowledging the presence of the tension without essaying further to establish its source or direction, I think) I have not encountered since first reading Cavell, and then I never so much overcame it as I did overcome my fear of it, to the extent that I have.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I Figured Out Titling

Only took a month. Has anyone read Ed Oakes and Alyssa Pitstick on Balthasar over at FT?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I am not terribly interested in beginning with a major, substantive post. I have spent the past hour or so catching up on my blog reading. I was and am intrigued by some of the remarks R.R. Reno made regarding the lack of spiritual seriousness in First Things. My initial reaction is to say that the "crisis of confidence" diagnosis is not a very good one. It may be that the substance of his diagnosis is good, and I am distracted by the unfortunate terminology. Otherwise, I might be missing the interpretation and expansion of our understanding of a crisis of confidence. Sloth has always struck me as a main reason for spiritual frivol: especially systematic spiritual frivol.
Is This How A Title Gets Made?

Just wondering...
How's this?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Still not much time…

Still not much time for blogging. For now, just a question: what is the difference between U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s comments of this weekend to the effect that Iraq was better with Saddam Hussein in power, on the one hand, and some Italians’ insistence that quando c’era il duce queste cose non succedevano (These things didn’t happen where there was the duce –Mussolini- which means, idiomatically, things were better with a dictator.)? Do the Shi’ite Muslims and the ethnic Kurds agree?
The Mega-Post:

THe mega-post on Islam and civil law, etc., did not materialize, as you will have noted by now. It is already become a much bigger project than I at first anticipated, and much too big to pursue for the moment. In the meantime, I suggest The Middle East by Bernard Lewis, especially the cross-section on religion and law. It is brief, accurate, and introductory without being either overly simplistic. As always, caveat lector verba romana, that is, the reader is reminded to maintain the proper critical awareness of the use of Western nomenclature and terminology to explain Islamic institutions.

Thoughts on first week of Advent forthcoming

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Apoligies for lengthy absence. I am preparing a mega-post for the week-end, dealing with the following:

1. Muslims' understanding of Mary

2. Why it is difficult to speak of "Muslim" understanding of Mary

3. Muslim Law

4. Why Muslim Law and Civil Law are basically incompatible (basically is a scientifically precise word here)

I will also have thoughts regarding the Pope in Byzantium, especially this http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1561120,00.html article.

Happy Reading, and we'll see you soon.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Response to APERITUS:

The verb, "to English" is not of this author's coinage, neither is it current coin. It means, "to render in the tongue of the Angles." As for thaumazein, it is best Englished with, "to stupefy" and functions as a subtantive infinitive, so that it sands to say, "stupor," and "wonder," at the same time.

More soon.
Just a line to let everyone know that all is well and that I will return very shortly to regular blogging. Orate pro pontefice.
Just a line to let everyone know that all is well and that I will return very shortly to regular blogging. Orate pro pontefice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I realize I should have posted this yesterday, as a part of the post on Cavell, Emerson, St. Paul and life in (the conceptual space called) America.

This is from Page 261 of Cities of Words, at the end of the essay on Ibsen's contribution to the register of what Cavell calls Emersonian moral perfectionism (about which a note at bottom):
begin quote
When Nora says she realyy doesn't know, that it's hard to say (a wonderful expression) [and I invite you all to remember that "wonder" Englishes thaumazein, so that Cavell is also making a statement about what it is that philosophy does, i.e. the hard thing, saying that which is hard to say.], whether she has some moral sense, she is not expressing an uncertaintly about some fact about herself but an ignorance of her relation to her experience. The inability to judge amounts to the lack of that possession of speech which Aristotle declares fits one for membership in a polis, makes one able to participate in a Rawlsian conversation of justice.
Let's move to a conclusion by noting that [Ibsen's play, A Doll's House] closes, after all, in a religious register, upon the image or invocation of a miracle, indeed of a greatest miracle, one produced by this woman's sense of having lived a life of violation, of having accepted the denial of her existence as a human being, the realization of which makes her want, as she cries out near the end of the play, "to tear herself to little pieces" (perhaps as if to show the world, which she cannot tear to pieces, what she thinks of its worth). SHe describes the miracle as creating between her and Torvald a genuine marriage, namely a change which would be redemption.
There is a change associated with salvation in the Christian Bible, 1 Corinthians 15 (a portion of which Emerson quotes in "Self-Reliance"): "Behold! I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For the corruptible must put on incorruption and the mortal must put on immortality." Linking this to the change called marriage puts marriage (whatever that will be recognized to be) under mortal, or say religious, pressure in the modern world, namely to achieve incorruptible union in a world none of whose corruptible institutions can validate the fact of genuine marriage, not church or state or family or allowed sexuality. The uncanniness of the fit between Paul's Letter to the COrinthians and the end of Ibsen's A Doll's House is unlaughably comic, or dreamlike, when you consider that the twinkling of an eye in which Nora's change comes about occurs at bedtime, when, as Torvald abruptly discovers, she is not, and he is, preparing to go to bed ("We shall not all sleep"). But perhaps it is no more comic or dreamlike than Ibsen's use of the image of changing clothes as a modern parable for being changed.
Some extreme statement is being suggested here about the secularization of modern life, about the relocating or transforming of what is important or interesting to human life, as turning our attention from celestial to terrestrial things, or rather suggesting that their laws are not different.
end quotation
About moral perfectionism, I ought to say that I understand Cavell to mean a perfect committment to the good life, where perfect means "thoroughgoing" in its acception of "absolute" or "unstinted". Emersonian moral perfectionism is lived, so far as possible, in and through the constant and unflinching consideration of the questions: what does the good require of me? This question can manifest itself in many guises. One of the most important is the following acception: given that a situation x requires me to choose between the preservation of the current state of my relation to the good (the beautiful and the true), against the incursions of a potentially deleterious element, on the one hand, and on the other the chance to move into a further, better, relation to the good (the beautiful and the true) by stepping out of myself, and therefore risking the loss of myself (my undoing, which is the opposite of perfection), which (if either or any at all) path does my committment to the good life require me to take? To pull the trigger? To say, "I do."? To turn the other cheek? To come to a full stop? To cross against the light? To play poker in the garage? To have a drink? To take a nap, a walk, a coffee or a movie, and alone, or in company, and if in company, in which company?
I think here of Robert Frost's reflection in "Road Less Travelled", among the myriad pertinent instances of what I will call Cavellian facets of perfectionism. In that poem, Frost says "I took the road less travelled-by / And that has made all the difference." I understand the poet here to be reminding us that we can only know the difference our choices have made, and never the difference they will make. The poet, in other words, is admonishing us against our basing our decisions on something that is very like an intention, and even more like a belief (which on this reading can be nothing more than -?an expression of?- a desire). Does this place us outside the radius of prudence? I think not. I have the sense that Cavellian perfectionism, over and against Emersonian perfectionism, would be (going) after virtue in the way of Augustine, i.e. recognizing the need for virtue in our limitations and the possibility of virtue in our recognition of our need-ful-ness. Is the choice to go down the orad less travelled a prudent one? The poet is saying that responses like, "no, because there are like to be lions and tigers and bears," or, "Yes, since the chances for character-building adventure are greater," are unhelpful to our efforts to determine moral status, whether that of the act or that of the agent.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It is Saturday AM in Rome. The iron is dead and the sky is threatening. I came across a passage from Stanley Cavell's Cities of Words, in which Cavell discovers that Henrik Ibsen has “secularized” the transformation presaged inPaul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians (15:51-53). I find this claim to dramatic secularization extremely close to Eric Voegelin’s lcaim that modernity is essentially a project dedicated to the immanentization of the eschaton. Indeed, Cavell could have found just another instance of the modern project in Ibsen.

There is, however, more to Cavell’s claim. Cavell notes that Emerson (who is responsible for discovering what counts for Cavell as philosophy in America) cites from the same passage. Cavell in turn interprets Emerson’s use of the scriptural passage, not so much as a secularization, but rather as the locus of Emerson’s recognition that another, a prior transformation needs to take place. If the mortal needs to put on immortality in St. Paul, then those who have forgotten their mortality must re-acquire (cognizance of) their mortality before they can truly pass into immortality.

The divinization of man and all creation in St. Paul, in other words, must be preceeded by a re-discovery of humanity. I point out, and do not at this point ask you to come with me, but I say that I see here at least the possibility that Emerson has discovered in America the need for responding to the Delphic command: γνώσε σεαυτόν, that is, “know that you are a man,” which must mean, “know that you shall someday die.” To paraphrase (and not by much, either) St. Augustine, we are mortalitatem circumferentes, i.e. we are carrying our death around with us.

Recognition of this fact is one of the conditions that Augustine puts on our ability rightly to sing the praise of God.

All of this would make America the place in which philosophy and true religion are constantly being dis-covered.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just a line to say I'm still here, and very busy. Love to all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Just a quick thought relating to Jimmy Akin's analysis (link takes you to Jimmy Akin's Blog. For pertinent post see archives for August, Aug. 1) of a question regarding the morality of gambling in a state where games of hazard are prohibited:

While I am in general substantive agreement with Akin’s analysis, I wonder whether the moral center of the question as it has been raised does not lie elsewhere.

Supposing the in-house poker game to be illegal, would not the general requirement that we obey the law, ceteris paribus inform our consideration of the morality of the question?

In other words: capricious disobedience of the law in some cases is at least as dangerous to civil society as blind and uncritical adherence thereto in all cases.

While the latter tends to stem from cowardice, the former more often stems from a relatively low opinion of authority (the authoritative expressions of society's organs for the maintenance of order and the protection/promotion of the common good are relatively less important than, say, my desire to do what I will, when I will, in the manner I will). Neither benefits ordered liberty.

So, in a place where legitimate authority has passed a law (or ordinance) prohibiting a certain activity (provided the activity is not necessary to the health of individuals or groups, or directly bearing on the health of civil society), were it not better simply to obey the law (with pertinent exceptions, e.g. in cases where doing so would directly result in injury or death to an innocent)?

Regardless of the other possible considerations, would not obedience be the act most conducive to fostering a habit of thinking first of the common good, as well as conducive to the development of the critical sense of justice that is indispensable to citizenship in free society?

At rock bottom, is not obedience to the gambling law a simple matter of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s?
Some Random Thoughts:

Today is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time and hebdomada IV psalterii. That is not so much a thought as a fact. It’s just that I was thinking about it. The Antiphon to the Magnificat is: Vidua illa pauper de penuria sua omnia, quae habuit, misit, totum victum suum.

The widow’s mite is more easily admired than imitated.

On praying the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning and Evening Prayer (Lauds and Vespers) require a total of 12 minutes out of each day. Hora Media requires maybe 5 minutes. Most of us can spare that kind of time at least a couple of times per week. I’m just saying.

Just very briefly, and with the promise of more fulsome reflections: There is an important sense in which the Regensburg Manifesto is all about Islam, or rather, the relation of Islam to the West. It was the influence of Islamic thinkers that led to Scotus (and Okham). The pseudo-plausibility of a rejection of analogy begins with the influx of Islamic thought into the Western intellectual milieu.

A brief note to erstwhile critics of the “opportunity” of Pope Benedict’s remarks: if you say that Pope Benedict ought not address remarks in a pointed way to intellectuals, because the words of the Pope are sought by billions who are not trained in the disciplines of the academy, then you are wrong in judgment due to coarseness of analysis. The fact that the Pope’s words are sought and read by billions means only that they must be, on some level, accessible to the person of slightly-below-average intelligence. Good writing often works on several levels of interpretation, and service to truth requires only that the message conveyed through each interpretative level be reconcilable to the messages contained on the others.

Pope Benedict told a story of an Emperor who, during the decade-long siege of his capital city, bravely sallied from the city gates are rode into the enemy camp, only to… have a talk with one of the enemy who was esteemed for his wisdom. When the emperor, in the midst of the enemy camp, entertained very bluntly challenging language regarding the religion of the enemy, his interlocutor did not cut off his head, did not rip out his entrails, did not do anything of the sort. In other words, Pope Benedict told a story in which political leaders freely seek dialogue in the middle of the most trying conditions, and do not allow the difficulty or perceived uncouth-ness of their interlocutors to justify acts of violence. A five-year-old could get that. If, as it seems, much of the world has become so barbarous as to be incapable of elementary reading comprehension, the Pope cannot certainly be blamed.
More on Parents’ Rights.

The basic question my brother and I were attempting to address was the following: how do groups attain rights? We answered that one way for a group of individuals to attain rights is incorporation. It is, at that point, the legal fiction known as a corporation, which attains rights.

That was largely unhelpful, however, since the motive of our investigation was Carol Shea-Porter's statement on matters of “privacy” taken from her campaign website (link above):

I believe that we have a right to make our own medical decisions. Women have a right to make their own reproductive decisions, and families have a right to make end of life decisions.

Our starting point, then, was a consideration of groups called “families”. We reflected that a “family” as such has no rights it may exercise corporately, either in nature or under law.

It has generally been the case that certain individuals, who have entered into that union, which constitutes the basic familial unit, i.e. the marital union which creates the married couple, do have certain rights over and relating to the putatively legitimate issue of their union.

Individuals, then, standing in certain relations to one another, relations arising from accidents of nature such as marriage and parenthood in marriage (I am assuming, without argument, that marriage is a union enjoying logical, temporal and ontological priority over the state, which may legislate in behalf of the union and those entering or entered upon it, but cannot legislate to alter the fundamental structure of marriage) do acquire rights which necessarily attend the proper execution of those natural offices to which an individual has attained by accident (accident here means something which falls to a subject without altering the substance of it.).

More later…
Jimmy Akin…

Has criticised the press reportage of recent statements from the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He has also criticized the Cardinal’s statements, as reported. Look for the entry dated 9 November.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

This is going to have to be brief.

I was on the phone with my brother, the lawyer, about an hour ago. The question we were debating was: how can a non-corporate group of persons come to attain rights as a group (e.g. a couple or a family).

WE do often speak of parents' rights, though I think the right way to understand the term, "parents' rights" is as follows: "parents' rights" are those rights, which individuals hold ceteris paribus, who are the parents of children.

More on the issue, including significant background, either later on or tomorrow.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I’ve been following, i.e. catching up with John Neuhaus’s essay on the Regensburg Moment, as well as the exchange over at The Corner (beginning at 11:57 AM of the 10th, inst.) between Wesley Smith and John Derbyshire.

Tomorrow morning I will say something appropriate. In the meantime, if you have not seen the items, then follow the links.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just a Quick Point About the OCMS Song.

When I talk about "hellenisms" in the lyrics, I am not suggesting that the authors are deliberately referencing Plato (I am not excluding it, but I am not suggesting it). Rather, I am saying that their language reveals an opennesss to experience that is characteristic of philosophy as such. It was Plato who first differentiated the open soul as the goal of philosophic life and condition of psychically healthy polity.
Just a Few Thoughts on Dave's Story

I do not have the text in front of me, so I cannot delve into specifics. I can say the language Patterson discovers to describe the different moments of dis-illusionment is the best the story has to offer.

There is, I think, a certain constructed uneasiness with language, the author seems searching, though not terribly skillfully, for words and then abandoning the search in favor of an expression that (seems to) convey the general idea. It strikes me that the author has written quite deliberately after the manner of an educated and literally sensitive fellow with an Old Pro hangover and better things to worry about.

As far as form and style, then, the piece is is an impressive achievement.

I am anxious to know more about the narrator -a first reading gives me the impression of a narrator who is at once telling too much and too little of himself.

Regarding the other characters, with the exception of Kyle "Killer" Kovacs: the author might have found a way around them, entirely, unless, of course, there are other of his stories in which the erstwhile subordinates play more prominent roles.

Are there other stories to be told? I certainly hope so. Reading Mr. Patterson's latest effort has made me want to read more of his work, has made me long for more words from him.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I will be blogging very early tomorrow morning GMT+1 re. Dave Patterson's effort. Can someone provide a link to Dave's story (and send Mr. Patterson a link to the page?).
I just came across this story at yahoo! news. I think I know some of the people they interviewed. Whether I agree with their sentiments in the main or in the specific, is irrelevant.

The point is, they haven’t a dog in the fight. The MEPs who signed that letter ought to be ashamed of themselves.
First, and for the benefit of those who have not the lyrics committed to memory:

Well my friend, I can see your face so clearly/
[a] little bit tired, little worn through the years.

You sound nervous, you seem alone/
Hardly recognize your voice on the telephone.

In between, I remember/
Just before we wound up broken down.
Drive out to the edge of the highway/
Follow that lonesome dead-end road-sign sound.

We’re all in this together.
Walkin’ the line, between faith and fear.
And this life, don’t last for ever.
When you cry I taste the salt in your tear.

Well my friend, let’s put this thing together:
Walk the path that worn out feet have trod.

If you want it, we can go on forever.
Give up your jaded ways, and spell your name to God.

We’re all in this together.
Walkin’ the line, between faith and fear.
And this life, don’t last for ever.
When you cry I taste the salt in your tear.

All we are is a picture in a mirror
With fancy shoes to grace our feet.

And all there is, is a slow road to freedom,
With Heaven above and the devil beneath.

We’re all in this together.
Walkin’ the line, between faith and fear.
And this life, don’t last for ever.
When you cry I taste the salt in your tear.

At this point, I would like to call your attention to a few Hellenisms in the text, to wit:

The “in between” of, “in between, I remember” is almost screaming μεταξύ αλεθευω, and the Platonic implications of this, especially following Eric Voegelin’s later development of the metaxy both as a scholarly matter of Platonic exegesis and as a central element of his meta-political speculation, here appears in a thematically relevant way as an expression of transcendent experience, specifically the transcendency of (the memory of) friendship, or the experience of friendship as the ground of transcendence. IN any case, that the drama of the poem is essentially concerned with memory is established beyond reasonable doubt by the statement, “I can see your face so clearly” in the context of a telephonic vocal suggestion. There are also Augustinian elements of the presence of the past, the presence of the present and the presence of the future in the clear image of the face that is “a little bit tired” and “[a] little worn through the years.”

I do not ask you to come all the way, or even part of the way with me on this one, but I cannot help noting that the “slow road” fairly translates μεθ‘ώδος, the hard path, the “method”. Remember that, for Plato, the method is the life of erotic descent and ascent in the filial pursuit of truth through friendship.

The refrain, in light of these two observations, takes on a new relation to the drama of the poem. The refrain is the generalization of experience, or the expression of an experience that is generally available and therefore necessarily to be pursued.

The “picture in a mirror” of the final verse clearly recalls Plato’s cave, but its mode of recollection gives cause for pause. To be a picture in a mirror is to be a reflection of a reproduction of an image. “We,” asserts the poet, are the props and accoutrements placed in the cave to deceive the troglodytes into believing themselves free. There is, here, the possibility for diverse readings. I tend to prefer the very simple, straightforward and entirely unflattering judgment of human nature contained in the simple, straightforward reading of the text as social criticism (let us recall that κρίσις is nothing other than principled judgment). Our refusal to judge our fellows, that is, to be critically engaged with each other, makes true freedom impossible, for it tends to confirm the false and pernicious understanding of liberty as freedom from judgment.

The second verse could be a disjointed epilogue, or it could be that the final verse requires singing because the invitation issued in the second has been rejected. This strikes me as insufficient, though I will not now hazard a reading.
I thought you all should know that Joseph had a very good day at school today, and is anxious to hear ""Wagon Wheel" by OCMS. A little later, I'll have a few things to say about their song, "We're All in this Together."
The Supreme Court today hears argument in two different abortion cases, each dealing with "partial birth" abortion. I am researching the cases right now, and will hopefully have something intelligent to say later on. In the meantime, if anyone has any information...
This morning my brother sent me the following speech. I thought folks might be interested:

Former Senator Rudman (R-NH) was awarded the George C. Marshall Award last week at the AUSA banquet, and gave this short, but great, speech. No spin in his speech or in his subject.
Thank you, General Sullivan, for your generous remarks.
And I have to tell you what was going through my mind as you were up there speaking.
I kept thinking that my late mother and father would be very proud.
And my old battalion commander in Korea - from the 38th Infantry, Second Division -- would be flabbergasted!
* * *
Then again, if you have ever read anything at all about the contribution that George Marshall made to this nation, one message is clear. Virtually no one truly belongs in his class.
It would have been honor for me to carry his boots, let alone an award in his name.
If you reflect on the arc of his life -- and what it meant to this nation -- it is just staggering.
Think about it. When Marshall started his career, he entered the Virginia Military Institute right down the road from here. And this Army was still being run by veterans of the Civil War. This nation was just a kid -- barely able to keep itself in one piece.
Yet, by the end of his career - and through his vision -- America had become the architect of peace in every corner of the world, the indispensable nation in the largest war in the history of humanity.
More important, we had laid the foundations of the modern Army and armed forces to provide global stability.
We had poured the cornerstones of global democracy.
And through his Marshall Plan we had planted the seeds of a global economy that would lift tens of millions of people out of poverty.
That's a record that would leave anyone in awe.
You would be hard pressed to find any single person - uniformed or civilian, Roosevelt, Truman, and Churchill included - who did so much, so well, over such a long period of time, to get us to that point.
So, in the long sweep of history, I would go so far as to say that Marshall will rank up there with Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and the rest of the founders. When you reach that level, it's simply hard to imagine anyone but that one person who could have accomplished the same for our nation.
* * *
But the real value of this award is not just the chance to reflect on history. It's an occasion to reflect on the man himself: the values, the traits, the character of this soldier and statesman.
If you read anything at all of Marshall's writings, this comes through so clearly. The beliefs that he fought for are just as relevant for today's Army -- and for today's leaders -- as they were for his time. And I want tonight to talk just a few minutes about those:
Foremost, he believed in putting those at the bottom of the ladder - the ground troops, the infantrymen -- at the top of his list.
From his time at Fort Benning, there's a great story about him ripping an officer because the troops didn't have blankets and stoves.
He called the officer on the carpet and said, "Get every damn one of those things tonight. Not tomorrow. Tonight. We are going to take care of the troops first, last, and all the time."
"First, last, and all the time ... " That is the kind of commitment we owe the troops.
He believed that personal integrity conferred more authority than any ribbon or star ever could.
Marshall was a guy who almost never pulled rank to make a point. But he scared the living hell out of people.
Think about General Patton, who was no shrinking violet.
Patton once said if he had to choose between facing Marshall in an interview or face a whole Nazi Panzer division by himself ....
The decision would be easy: face the Panzers.
Marshall believed that he had a solemn duty to speak truth to power.
That's something that you don't learn in basic training.
In his very first meeting with President Roosevelt - one of the most popular and powerful Presidents and commanders-in-chief to ever sit in the Oval Office - Marshall, then Chief of Staff of the Army, had the courage to look him in the eye and say, "I am sorry, Mr. President, I don't agree with you at all."
His very first meeting!
And I have to tell you, that takes more than guts.
He believed in being candid and direct.
Churchill was once arguing to delay the invasion of Europe in favor of an attack on Rhodes.
Marshall listened quietly for a long time, nodding, and then finally he exploded. He said, "You can plan all you want. But not one American soldier is going to die on that goddamned beach."
He believed in extreme loyalty: the kind of loyalty that goes up and down the chain of command.
His view was that you select talented people, you put your trust in them, and then let them do their job.
In 1947, when it became clear after face-to-face talks with the Soviets that the Cold War was going to be a reality, Marshall came back to the State Department and called George Kennan into his office.
He told him that he would have to immediately set up a policy office and write a master plan to deal with the threat.
So, there you have Kennan, this brilliant guy who immediately sees 389 dimensions to the problem. And you have the grand strategy for the fate of the Western world hanging in the balance. It doesn't get bigger than that.
So Kennan tells Marshall, "Mr. Secretary, I am going to need more guidance from you."
Marshall paused for a few seconds. And then he looked at him and said precisely two words: "Avoid trivia."
And that's one of the things I have always loved about Marshall: he didn't believe that anyone, regardless of rank, should take himself too seriously.
One time, General Walter Bedell Smith - in full uniform - came to report to Marshall's house to give him a report. And it turned out that Marshall was out in the rain, picking corn in his vegetable patch.
After a few minutes in the rain and mud, Smith started to get a bit testy. And he said, "General, do I have to stand out here to make my report?"
And Marshall said, "No, Smith. Of course not. Turn over that bucket and sit down."
* * *
If there's one idea - one lesson - from Marshall's life that I could leave you with tonight, I think that would be it.
No matter how high or how low your rank, you should never let your respect for the privilege and prestige of an office distract you from what you're there to do -- to outweigh your obligation to speak truth to power.
In that spirit, I believe I would be remiss if I didn't use this occasion to close with just a few words about the current state of this fine institution, the United States Army.
When I think about the history of the U.S. Army, places come back to mind . . . Omaha, Bastogne, Porkchop Hill, Ia Drang and, of course, Baghdad. From my own experience in Korea, those places are notable for the courage and uncommon valor of the American soldier.
Regardless of one's views about the wisdom of starting the current action in Iraq, I am deeply, deeply worried about its lasting impact on our Army - on all our armed forces, but the Army especially.
By almost any measure, we have asked too small a force to operate at too fast an ops tempo with too little resources over too much territory. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have so many, owed so much to so few for so long.
And this is doing damage to our Army - active, guard, and reserve - that will take a generation to repair.
We are "taking it in the neck."
You can say all you want about the theory of light footprints and high-tech warfare. But as far as I'm concerned, you can save that for the classroom. At the end of the day, if you don't have enough boots on the ground, you have more instability, not less.
And for families all across this country, that means you have more kids coming home without arms and legs -- not less. You have more honor guard funerals -- not less.
That's just wrong. It's a tragedy. It did not have to be this way. And it's time for us to put the issue right in front of the American people, on the kitchen table, rather than pretend it's not there.
More than 60 years ago, at the height of World War II, Marshall stood before an audience just like this, pleading to get the resources that he believed were essential. This is a man who didn't shrug at the casualty figures. He had them on top of his desk - and in front of his president -- every week!
And he said, "Just once, in the history of this country, I'd like to see the American solider be given a fair break in the terrible business of making war."
Classic Marshall. Direct. Candid. Loyal. Always on the lookout for the soldiers who are making the greatest sacrifice.
And I don't think we could pay him any greater tribute today than to listen to his voice: "Just once ... a fair break."
As we leave here tonight, let us all take a moment to say a prayer for all of those brave young men and women who are willing to put it on the line for the greater good.
Thank you.
This is going to be fun.