Remarks at the Marshall Legacy Institute's Anniversary Gala

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Washington, DC
October 4, 2011

Date: 10/04/2011 Description: Deputy Secretary William Burns speaks at the Marshall Legacy Institute's Anniversary Gala in Washington, DC - State Dept Image

Good evening. It is truly an honor to join you this evening as we recognize the outstanding work of the Marshall Legacy Institute and our remarkable award winners.

Tonight we celebrate the courage of ordinary people who prevailed in the face of extraordinary adversity. Their actions inspire us all to renew our commitment to work every day to create a better world.

I’d like to welcome Senators Reed and Enzi, Representative Sanchez, Ambassador Hakimi and the many other diplomatic colleagues joining us tonight. Cooperation with the people and governments of mine-affected countries is critical to the success of our shared work, and your presence here highlights the strength of our international partnerships. I’d also like to salute General Sullivan for his vision to expand George Marshall’s legacy through this organization, and for bringing us together around such a worthy cause.

We at the State Department have been proud to partner with the Marshall Legacy Institute and support its humanitarian efforts to remove landmines from the beginning. We helped launch the MLI’s first Mine Detection Dog partnership programs in the late 1990s, and we later provided funding to get the Children Against Mines Program off the ground. Now, 14 years later, the Marshall Legacy Institute has become a premier example of how much we can accomplish when government and private organizations work together in common cause.

In fact, the public-private partnership that supports our work with MLI has since become a model for our office of Global Partnership Initiatives.

The MLI’s success has also generated tens of millions of dollars in private sector support for land mine action. I was impressed to learn that General Dynamics has sponsored 10 Mine Detection Dogs – thank you so much for that contribution. No matter how large or how small your donation, whether you held bake sales or dog walks or went through your corporate social responsibility office, your contribution is important.

This work is critical, and it is expensive. Each of MLI’s 155 Mine Detection Dogs working in mine-affected countries is actively saving lives. But it takes a great deal of time and money to train and deploy each individual dog. Prosthetic limbs that fit comfortably and work correctly can cost thousands of dollars, often much more than survivors and their families can afford.

None of us can achieve the results we want to see on our own. It is only through ventures that unite the resources of the private sector with the passion of the non-profit sector and the reach of the U.S. Government that we can make a concrete difference. And when we cooperate effectively, as we do through MLI’s programs, we change lives.

Part of MLI’s recipe for success also relates directly to General Marshall’s legacy: a focus on rebuilding capacity in countries that have experienced conflict. Since 1993 the United States has delivered nearly $2 billion in aid to help overcome threats from landmines and unexploded ordnance. But long-term recovery truly begins when countries have the ability, the infrastructure, and the know-how to help themselves.

MLI trains local handlers to clear territory. They help create the support systems that foster sustainable, locally-driven development. They rehabilitate survivors and help them learn new skills that will help them support themselves and their families. Together, MLI and all of its partners around the world are helping build societies where children can grow up safe and run barefoot through a field without fear.

George Marshall once said, “It is not enough to fight. It is the spirit which we bring to the fight that decides the issue. It is morale that wins the victory.”

As I look around the room tonight, I can tell you: morale is high.

It takes great courage to walk into a mine field with complete faith in your partner, as our Mine Detection Dog team of the year, Shah Mohmood (Mah-MOOD) and Pete, do.

It takes the enduring spirit of a survivor to discover new talents rather than succumb to tragedy, as the Fantomi (Fan-tohmee) Sitting Volleyball Team has done.

It takes great esprit de corps to reach out to children half a world away and care for those you have never met, as the Glenelg (Glen-Elg) Country School has.

It takes steadfastness of purpose to advocate for creative policy solutions to long-entrenched problems, as Senator Jack Reed has done for almost 30 years.

Each of them is making a remarkable contribution to our shared fight.

This is undoubtedly an uphill battle. There are still hundreds of thousands of undetected landmines buried around the world – each posing a grave threat to human and animal life, each rendering the surrounding land unusable. But ultimately we will win because we refuse to give up.

For the first time in history, more landmines are being removed than are being planted. The tide has started to turn thanks in no small part to the commitment and dedication – the unmatched morale – of everyone here tonight.

On behalf of everyone at the State Department, I thank you for your contributions to this cause. We firmly believe in the importance of humanitarian mine action, and we will continue to stand with you until the job is done. Thank you.