Ambassador Chris Stevens
Yesterday was a dark day for the Foreign Service, for the United States of America, and for people everywhere who strive to live free and at peace. We learned of the tragic death in Libya of four of our colleagues, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have already spoken of this extraordinary diplomat and the work he did on behalf of the American and Libyan people to promote democracy and freedom. But Ambassador Stevens was not just an accomplished diplomat; he was a remarkable person, and I’d like to share with you a few personal memories of a friend who will be missed.
I first met Chris years before either of us joined the State Department, as we worked together at the same law firm in San Francisco. I had already been working there for a couple of years when Chris arrived at the firm as a summer associate. He had an easy and open style that immediately made an impression, and combined with his clear competence and professional bearing, instilled confidence and trust. He was someone you wanted to work with and to know. A great colleague and a great friend. It was a large law firm, and Chris and I never worked closely together, but in a world of hundreds of partners and associates, he was someone you would always remember and would be happy to see. We lost touch after I left the firm to join the State Department, where, one day several years later when I was serving as the Desk Officer for Libya, Chris appeared at my office door to say hello. It seemed that he, too, had decided to forsake the practice of law to embark upon a career in diplomacy, and had just started a new assignment as the Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for our Near Eastern Affairs bureau, a posting that marked him early as someone bound for success. In the years that followed, our paths would cross from time to time and despite his success and rising stature, he never lost his warm, sincere, personal manner. He was someone who you wanted to succeed, who you were happy and proud to see do well. Indeed, it has been said by others that he was one of the brightest stars in my generation of American diplomats, and this is an undeniable truth. He combined all of the qualities needed in a great leader; he was someone you wanted to work with and for, and he will be terribly, terribly missed.
Chris exemplified all that is good in a public servant. Dedicated to improving the world in which we live, he was willing to take risks on behalf of others. All of us in the Foreign Service know the risks involved in serving our country abroad, sometimes in very distant and dangerous places, and we and our families face them willingly and with pride. We hear a lot about the heroes who serve in uniform, and that’s okay, because they deserve all the accolades they garner. But there are two walls in the entrance to the State Department that bear the names of many, many diplomats who have given their lives for the United States in distant lands. Sadly, the list continues to lengthen. The addition of any name is a tragedy. It will be another sad day when the names of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, and our two other colleagues are chiseled into that stone. Chris was one of the best, and his death is a tragic, senseless loss to freedom-loving people everywhere.
Heartfelt thanks to all of our friends and colleagues around the world who have expressed their condolences to us. We are so grateful and touched by the outpouring of support.