American Portraits

George C. Marshall: In Peace and In War

In this lesson, students will learn about the life of George C. Marshall and how it was shaped by integrity. They will explore his actions and how they shaped his identity and purpose. Through his example, they will learn how they can pursue integrity in their own lives.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.


The waves of applause began to subside as he approached the podium. Still, whispers lingered, questioning the selection of this man for the award. Within the first five minutes of his speech, General George Catlett Marshall answered his critics. He began, “There has been considerable comment over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a soldier. I am afraid this does not seem as remarkable to me as it quite evidently appears to others . . . The cost of war in human lives is constantly spread before me, written neatly in many ledgers whose columns are gravestones.”…

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can George C. Marshall actions inspire others to practice integrity?

Virtue Defined

Integrity is personal consistency in moral goodness.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about the life of George C. Marshall and how it was shaped by integrity. They will explore his actions and how they shaped his identity and purpose. Through his example, they will learn how they can pursue integrity in their own lives.


  • Students will analyze George C. Marshall’s life and actions throughout the 20th century.
  • Students will understand how acting with integrity can affect their purpose and identity.
  • Students will apply this knowledge to the pursuit of integrity in their own lives.


George C. Marshall served as Army Chief of Staff during World War II and later as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under President Harry Truman. Marshall is most well-known for the Marshall Plan, in which the United States gave support to European nations following the devastation of World War II.

Much of Europe had faced bombings during the war and was struggling to recover. Trade issues, transportation destruction, and food shortages plagued Europe and the Soviet Union for many years after the war. The Marshall Plan loaned or granted money to countries to help rebuild their infrastructure and industry. For his work in developing and executing the plan, George C. Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.


  • Army Chief of Staff
  • Nobel Peace Prize
  • Compassion
  • Civilian Conservation Corps
  • Oppressed
  • Indispensable
  • Yearning
  • Moderate
  • Vicious
  • Prosperity

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

Visit Their Website


Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • What was George C. Marshall’s role in Europe after World War II?
  • Why was Marshall’s plan so important to Europe?
  • What do George C. Marshall’s actions say about his personal integrity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

  • Chace, James. “An Extraordinary Partnership.” Foreign Affairs 76, no. 3 (1997).
  • Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997.
  • Marshall, George Catlett, Jr. “Essentials to Peace.” Nobel Lecture delivered in the auditorium of the University of Oslo on 11 Dec. 1953. Published in Nobel Lectures: Peace 1951–1970. Nobel e-Museum.
  • Marshall, George Catlett, Jr. “The Marshall Plan.” In Our Nation’s Archive: The History of the United States in Documents, Erik Bruun and Jay Crosby, eds. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1999.
  • Mosley, Leonard. Marshall. A Hero for Our Times. New York: Hearst Books, 1982.
  • Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall: Organizer of Victory, 1943–1945. New York: Viking Press, 1973.
  • Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall: Statesman, 1945–1959. New York: Viking Press, 1987.
  • Stoler, Mark A. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.

Give Feedback

Send us your comments or questions using the form below.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.