On September 11, 2012, US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Although I did not know Chris Stevens personally, I knew of his work as a human rights activist and of his passion and love of Libya and her people from reading a Peace Corps article and following his career. I developed a huge amount of respect and admiration for Chris, so my heart dropped when I heard the news of Chris’s death and the surrounding circumstances. My first thought was about his family and loved ones and the gaping hole his death would leave in their lives. My second thought was we just lost one of the most brilliant and effective diplomats the world has ever known. My third thought was how Chris’s loss would affect Libya and Libyan-American relations and how could we keep his legacy alive.
A few days after Chris’s death the Facebook group “Libyans and Americans United for Friendship & Peace” was formed to provide a venue where Libyans and Americans and the world could mourn Chris’s the death and honor his life by encouraging the building of friendship and peace between Libyans and Americans and other countries. I joined the group because of my respect for Chris Stevens and I wanted to honor his legacy and learn more about the Libyan people he loved so much. I instantly made hundreds of new friends from around the world.
I have met and spiritually adopted five adult children since Chris’ death. Three sons and one daughter are Libyans. My fourth son is an Afghan national who served the US as a civilian interpreter for almost ten years. Many of you know my son from previous posts, but at this point in his journey to leave Afghanistan, I choose to keep his name private. My Afghan son and I have chatted for 15 months, but we have never spoken on the phone or Skyped…we have shared photos, but that recently changed.
Around 945am to 1045am, January 8, 2014 I had one of the most beautiful, joyful, emotional hours of my entire life! I finally met my lovely son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren on Skype and saw their beautiful faces and heard their melodious voices! It took me a couple of days to process the intense emotions in order to write about this experience. We spent an hour staring at each other and laughing and crying and sharing so much together. The children spoke their best English to me and the little ones said their “ABC’s” and sang adorable songs with their lovely voices and those sounds are burned into my memory forever. I have never seen so many beautiful eyes and sweet smiles in all my life and I was overcome with tears and “Alhamdulillas and thank you Gods” many times.
Although my Afghan family is Muslim, they embrace, love, and respect other religions. They did not choose to be born in Afghanistan any more than I chose to be born in America – we are world citizens first and foremost and our relationship has no cultural, religious or language barriers that keep us from loving and respecting each other. This family could be neighbors across the street, but they are family across an ocean. God’s divine synchronicity brought us together for reasons I no longer question! All I know is my life has never been the same since I met this family and my faith in God and my understanding and respect of Islam have grown beyond measure. My Afghan family lives out their faithfulness, obedience, patience, and love for God like no other people I’ve ever known.
My Afghan family faces several current hardships and obstacles. My son was in his last semester of medical school when the war broke out in 2001 and he was prevented from finishing medical school. Fortunately, he spoke English and he was opposed to the tyranny of Taliban and Al-Quada and secured a position as an interpreter for the US Army for about 10 years. In 2009, NATO and the allied countries agreed to provide special visas to the interpreters and their families so they might immigrate to the allied country they served before the allied troops pull out in 2014.
Since the day we met, my son and I have been working through various procedures in order to comply with personnel records issues between the US Army and the civilian personnel contractor who officially maintains these records. Once we accomplish that task, we will comply with additional procedures required by the Afghanistan special visa processing center and then the visa request will be forwarded to the U.S. Immigration Department for final processing and administration. In other words, this “special visa” process is not handed to these interpreters on a silver platter and the amount of patience required to deal with the red tape is mind-boggling.
May I ask for your prayers and positive thoughts and good will for my Afghan family and many other people whose similar stories are being played out all around the world? The world is in dire need of love, compassion, understanding and united faith that we can live in peace and harmony. Please consider volunteering your time to a variety of humanitarian groups that provide help in America and other countries. Salam and love to you all and let us keep Chris Stevens’ legacy alive!
Chris was a great tennis player...deft at the net, crafty with a great serve...
Whenever I got an email from Chris it would say, “Shelby, got any time for me?” My answer was always a quick yes. Chris was the type of player we coaches LOVE to do lessons with because he was just as good as I. So as opposed to a lesson, it would simply be he and I battling point after point. Til this day, I still dont think he ever frowned. The man wore a smile like no other and when he was on the court, I could tell he loved every minute of it as his escape from his adventurous and serious business life. I would always say, “you damn lefties.” He had a kick serve to the corner that drove me nuts especially when he followed it into the net. Gosh, I miss that guy. Special man. If any of his friends or family are in the DC area and you play, please contact me. No charge, Just a hit and talk in Chris’ honor. Peace and may he rest in peace.
Ambassador Stevens was everything we hope for in an Ambassador of the United States. His goals, as you have described, are the highest form of love and understanding. He did not touch my life directly, but because of who he was, I am a member of a group on Facebook founded in his memory called Libyans and Americans United of Peace and Friendship. His memory is very alive in this group and his purposes are being acted on every day. Thanks Chris Stevens.
One year after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, UC Berkeley announced a gift from the friends and family of the late diplomat that establishes an endowed fund at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies to see his work continue in future generations of students at his alma mater.
Everybody over the age of about 15 years old can tell you what they were doing 12 years ago this morning. September 11, 2001 is seared into our hearts and minds. It changed our country and it changed us.
Last year there was another September 11 attack killing 4 Americans, but this time it happened in Benghazi, not New York and Washington DC and in the skies over Pennsylvania. There are far fewer of us who remember that day as clearly as we do 2001. But I am one of them because one of those four Americans was our friend Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens…
September 11 will always be a difficult day for our family. However, we remain firm in our commitment to looking forward. We have been bolstered by each of you – friends, family, and many more whom we have never had the opportunity to meet. Your strength, your support, your funny stories, and your enthusiasm to change the world have inspired us.
We are touched and grateful.
One year ago this week, in response to a tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, we launched the J. Christopher Stevens Fund. The mission of the Fund is to support activities that build bridges between the people of the United States and those of the broader Middle East. This was the mission to which Chris dedicated his life.
We are grateful for each contribution received – from friends and family, from the Government of Libya, and from people near and far moved by Chris and his story.
In the coming weeks and months, we will launch a number of innovative programs and initiatives. The focus of our activity is on young people, both here in America and across the Middle East and North Africa.
Chris served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, and his death was felt acutely by the Peace Corps family. Last year, in response to numerous queries from returned Peace Corps Volunteers during Peace Corps Week, we encouraged returned volunteers to fan out across America and speak with youth about their experiences abroad. We are now working with the Peace Corps to expand their reach into schools and communities across this country.
Today the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where Chris studied as an undergraduate, announces the Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens Memorial Fund for Middle Eastern Studies, endowed by the J. Christopher Stevens Fund. Our purpose is to encourage and inspire students in Middle Eastern and North African scholarship.
Later this fall, together with a coalition of public and private partners, we will launch the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative. This initiative will embrace the power of technology to fuel the largest ever increase in people-to-people exchanges between the United States and the broader Middle East, vastly increasing the number and diversity of youth who have a meaningful cross-cultural experience as part of their formative education, and reaching over one million youth by 2020.
Tonight in Piedmont, CA, where Chris spent his teen years, the Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education will vote to name the Piedmont High library the Ambassador Christopher Stevens Memorial Library. Chris was inspired by the Piedmont High School motto “Achieve the Honorable”.
Later this year, the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, from which Chris graduated in 1989, will host the Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens Symposium. The event will emphasize law and public policy as used in practice to advance global understanding and peace, principles to which Chris was committed.
There have been more awards bestowed, and honors given, in Chris’ memory than we could have ever thought possible. But as we’ve said before, we have received letters from thousands of people all over the world who were touched by Chris’ example. His openness touched a chord in their hearts.
Chris would have wanted to be remembered for that.
I shed a tear today as I remember Ambassador Chris Steven’s. I shed a tear for every loved one that he left behind. What a wonderful man and what a wonderful life taken away from this Earth. I have faith that he is shining his light down on all of America from the Heavens today. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
Remembering Chris today for all he did. Thanks for his tremendous service, not just to the American people, but to people all over the world. To his family, I am tremendously sorry for your loss. The world will miss his contributions, but I am sure you miss his smile.
The class of 1978 will about to meet for its 35th reunion without Ambassador Stevens.
I think you all know through personal experience or sharing from friends the feeling of loss. We have that now.
I choose at this time to remind those close to me I travelled to the MLK memorial in Atlanta and in front is Mahatma Gandhi. Chris worked the same as ”Bapu” did in India, only in Morocco for the Peace Corp, in North Africa as a diplomat and the Middle East as a brother. Chris had many friends in Libya!
I looked up my notes from Poly Sci at Berkeley, a class we took together, taught by Professor Muir, and I have Special Ambassador Philip Habib’s quotes:
"Hatred, based on nationalistic, territorial, religious and other grounds exists widely in the world today. Hatred is a strong word but internationally it exists widely. Distrust is even more prevalent. Beyond hatred and distrust there are other depreciating levels of animosity."
Chris knew all this as he and I met across the years and he explained.
I found in my notes Prof Muir’s words, “other than clubs can be trumps,” and “leadership involves capturing the tools of reciprocity and morality necessary for its exercise. Building is what leadership is all about.”
Chris built. We must continue his work.
Dr. King looked to the day of brotherhood at a table set for all. I do too.
From the Family of Chris Stevens: Carry On His Good Work
Chris Stevens died in the service of his country. He died doing what he loved most — working to build bridges of understanding and mutual respect between the people of the United States and the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
He was loved by many more Libyans than those who hated him for being an American. A few dozen fanatics penetrated his compound. More than 30,000 people in Benghazi demonstrated in protest over his death.
Chris was successful because he embodied the traits that have always endeared America to the world — a commitment to democratic principles, and respect for others, regardless of race, religion or culture. Chris regarded and liked each person he met as an individual. He respected their views, whether or not he agreed.
One of his friends told us a tale that reflects his success on a small scale. Picnicking in the Libyan countryside, they met a local family. Chris immediately greeted them and suggested that they be photographed together. The young son of the patriarch of the family, suspicious and negative toward Americans, refused to participate. So Chris continued chatting with the others. When it was time to leave, the initially suspicious son presented Chris with a bouquet of flowers. “This is because you were so respectful to my father,” he said.
Chris was not willing to be the kind of diplomat who would strut around in fortified compounds. He amazed and impressed the Libyans by walking the streets with the lightest of escorts, sitting in sidewalk cafes, chatting with passers-by. There was a risk to being accessible. He knew it, and he accepted it.
What Chris never would have accepted was the idea that his death would be used for political purposes. There were security shortcomings, no doubt. Both internal and outside investigations have identified and publicly disclosed them. Steps are being taken to prevent their reoccurrence.
Chris would not have wanted to be remembered as a victim. Chris knew, and accepted, that he was working under dangerous circumstances. He did so — just as so many of our diplomatic and development professionals do every day — because he believed the work was vitally important. He would have wanted the critical work he was doing to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect — the kind of work that made him literally thousands of friends and admirers across the broader Middle East — to continue.
So rather than engage in endless recriminations, his family is working to continue building the bridges he so successfully began.
Through the J. Christopher Stevens Fund, and thanks to the tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, including a generous contribution from the government of Libya, the family of Christopher Stevens is working to support programs that build bridges between the people of the United States and the broader Middle East.
This fall, together with a coalition of public and private partners, the family will launch a Virtual Exchange Initiative that will fuel the largest ever increase in people-to-people exchanges between the United States and the broader Middle East. We are working with the Peace Corps to expand its reach into schools and communities across this country. The family will support university fellowships for promising students interested in foreign relations and the Middle East, andlooks forward to a symposium on “The Arab Spring and the Future of U.S. Diplomacy” plannedin Chris’ honor by the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.
We have received letters from thousands of people all over the world who were touched by his example. His openness touched a chord in their hearts.
He would have wanted to be remembered for that.
Editor’s note:Jan Stevens is the father of Ambassador Chris Stevens and writes these comments on behalf of his family.
National Defense University Dedication - May 3, 2013
It’s an honor to represent the class of 2013 in this dedication in memory of a great member of our National War College family, Ambassador Christopher Stevens of the class of 2010. I would like to acknowledge and thank all members of Chris’ family who are here with us today to honor the legacy of a fellow War College Warrior.
To quote from Thucydides, that we have studied here as students:
“For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”
Today, while we commemorate Ambassador Stevens with this plaque as a scholar, statesman, and inspiration, we also honor his memory in our hearts. With hope, optimism and a respect for different cultures, he embodied the War College essence in his efforts to promote peace and conflict resolution in his work in the Middle East and North Africa by seizing opportunities to make cultural connections, bridge gaps and strengthen partnerships in order to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West.
Ambassador Stevens epitomized the spirit of the National War College leader: honor, courage, passionate determination, and skill. He was a strategic thinker with an abundance of creative energy and enduring commitment to his own country as well as the foreign lands in which he served as a foreign service officer.
As the class of 2013 prepares to graduate shortly, we will take with us the enduring memory of this National War College Warrior and honor his example in our future endeavors. And as this tree which is designated in his honor grows, so does his spirit inspire and grow in the hearts of every new class of warriors.
Remarks by Maria Trejo, VP of the NDU Class of 2013
On April 18, 2013, the Center for Civic Mediation in Los Angeles awarded its Louis M. Brown Conflict Prevention Award to Ambassador Chris Stevens in an evening dedicated to his memory. I was honored to be asked to speak about Chris from our days in high school and college. What follows are my slightly edited remarks…
Thank you, Jill. I am so happy to be here, and to be a part of this evening honoring the work and legacy of my friend Chris Stevens.
This is a very special night for me for several reasons: As it happens, today, April 18th. would have been Chris’s 53rd birthday. In fact, today’s also my 53rd birthday and I can think of no better way to spend it than by being here with you tonight celebrating the life and memory of my old friend.
Tonight is also special because Chris’s parents are here tonight — all four of them — and if you want to talk about the man he was, you have to talk about the family he came from. He’s the son of lawyers and artists — his mother plays the cello and his father is an environmental lawyer who puts the do in do-gooder. Thirty-two years ago tonight, when Chris and I were roommates together at the University of California at Berkeley, we shared our 21st birthday together, and Mary and Bob Commanday, Chris’s mom and stepfather, showed up at our fraternity house at midnight with my parents. They brought pizza and beer for the entire house. Chris always knew how to Honor An Occasion, and he learned it from these people right here. (Can you believe that was the first time we’d ever had any beer? I’m not under oath tonight, am I?)
I met John Christopher Stevens at Piedmont High School, in northern California. Chris and his family moved to Piedmont I think when we were juniors, and he quickly made an impact, both socially and academically. He was disgustingly handsome, blond haired, blue-eyed, a good student, had a seemingly effortless rapport with the ladies, was a terrific athlete who played tennis and skiied, a musician who sang and played the saxophone, was editor-in-chief of the high school paper, and was also a member of AFS, the American Field Service, which organizes student foreign exchange programs, which allowed Chris to spend the summer before his senior year in Spain. You know — just another typical underachieving high school student. But I love the AFS page in our 1977 yearbook: There’s a picture of Chris and underneath it is one of the understatements of the century. It says, “This summer, Chris Stevens will be living abroad.” Chris spent almost the next thirty-five years living abroad.
Our paths crossed regularly in the Piedmont High music and theatre departments, where we performed together in definitive high school productions of Music Man and The Mikado, but I really got to know Chris when we both rushed the ATO fraternity at Cal. That’s where I first really witnessed the Chris Stevens Charm in action, and began to see the seeds of the diplomat he would eventually become. I went into these parties nervous, thinking I have to tell them all about me! and how fabulous and interesting I am! But Chris took a different approach: he was poised, confident, talking sincerely and enthusiastically about his interests and activities, but then he would always quickly and smoothly turn the conversation around and ask the ATO guys about their interests and their activities. Everybody loves talking about themselves, and everybody loves the guy who asks, ‘Hey, tell me about you.’
But I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. Chris could also be a goofball. We had a shared love of Monty Python and Tom Lehrer songs. Yes, he was confident and outgoing, but he was also self-deprecating, a quick and ready laugher who enjoyed seeing the absurdities of college life. But as I said, he loved a sense of occasion, whether it was taking a date to the symphony or dressing up for ATO’s annual Great Gatsby party. There’s a picture of the two of us from one of the Gatsby parties circling the Internet, in which Chris is absolutely rocking an ascot. Not many guys can get away with an ascot (or even should). But Chris could and definitely did. I guess at some level I thought Chris was perfect for the foreign service because they wear tuxedos and white dinner jackets every day, don’t they? It’s basically like Downton Abbey, I think.
But one thing I never understood was Chris’s love of running. I’m an actor: I love staying up late and sleeping even later. But no matter how late Chris stayed up studying or…let’s just say studying…he was always up early, going for a jog. And this was true his entire life, whether it was in the hills of Berkeley or the olive groves of Libya, he loved his daily run.
We were both History majors at Cal but while I was a double-major in Drama, it seemed like Chris was a double major in everything else. I think Chris took a course in just about every department on campus: English, Drama, Economics, Forestry, Urban Development, Logic, Philosophy, Art History, Geology, Italian, I’m sure there are many I’ve forgotten. Chris was the walking embodiment of the liberal arts ideal. His knowledge was broad and deep, his curiosity was limitless, and by the time he left Cal he was a Renaissance man who could talk to anybody about anything in any part of the world.
I directed three musicals while we were at Cal and gave Chris a part in all of them. Because first of all, the guy loved playing dress-up and putting on costumes — you gotta use that. And onstage — just as he was in every other part of his life — Chris was poised, comfortable, and confident. He was unflappable. You could not flap him. He was impervious to flappage. He was flap-free. He wasn’t a prima donna. He was a team player. He could step downstage for his solo moment and then step back upstage to be a member of the ensemble. Later, of course, Chris joined the Peace Corps and the foreign service, and then stepped out onto the world stage, and when he did the American community theatre lost a valuable character man and second baritone.
Chris and I roomed together at Cal for two years, and in our junior year, we had a third roommate, Steve McDonald, who’s here tonight. Steve refers to Chris as a “jazz diplomat”. Chris loved the give and take of jazz, and the analogy to diplomacy seems pretty strong, at least to me, but then I’m a drama major. But both jazz and diplomacy involve a solid structure and natural progressions and a complete command of the notes you’re supposed to play, but both also involve improvisation, requiring the players to listen to each other, give each other respect, let each person step forward and have their moment while the others provide support and counterpoint. It’s all about communication. It’s why we’re here tonight.
But jazz is also about the notes you don’t play. Chris also knew the power of silence, when he’d sit quietly sipping coffee while waiting for a colleague, or even an adversary, to reveal the information Chris needed. He proved especially adept at this whenever my wife and I would pry him for his true feelings about the various politicians he worked for or served under. He never revealed those thoughts to us. He was too classy.
Everybody liked Chris. Chris was always the guy who said yes. If I said, “Hey, let’s put on a show,” Chris said yes. If the fraternity said, “Hey, let’s put on a theme party that requires us to play dress-up and wear an ascot,” Chris said yes. If somebody said, “Hey, let’s go to this exotic restaurant or foreign country where none of us knows the food or speaks the language,” Chris said yes. He was fearless. In the theatre, this is how you build scenes through improvisation, by agreeing with and being in a consensus with your fellow actors. It’s how you build friends in life. It’s how you build nations and diplomacy. Chris commanded respect by giving respect.
And when Secretary of State Hilary Clinton asked him to serve, first as special envoy to the opposition then as Ambassador to Libya, Chris said yes.
The last time we saw Chris was in Washington DC on my son’s birthday in the summer of 2010, when I was performing at the Kennedy Center and he had just graduated fromthe War College. He sat up with us until 3 am, and it wasn’t until later that we realized how remarkable the evening was because — we got Chris to talk about himself and wouldn’t let him turn the conversation back around to us. He told us that at his War College graduation he resisted the temptation to concoct his own uniform with a sash and plumed hat and dime-store medallions. We asked him about his time prior to that stationed in Tripoli, and he told us the Libyans were a wonderful people and shouldn’t have to live like that under Kaddafi. At that moment, he didn’t know he’d be returning to Libya, but it was clear in 2010 he loved the Libyan people and wanted to help them achieve a measure of freedom and democracy.
He also told us that night that he frequently played tennis with the Libyan ambassador. When my wife asked him who won, Chris smiled and said “you never beat the ambassador.” That’s the main reason we were so excited when Chris was finally named ambassador — he’d finally get to win at tennis. I immediately asked whether his new post would give him the power to choose who plays him in the movie made about his life, because, you know, I got my own career to think about and I wanted to throw my hat in the ring. Chris emailed me back and said, and I quote: “I really admire your acting talents, but I was thinking more along the lines of Matt Damon. I envision the film as an Oceans 11 sequel, North African style.” Always the diplomat: complimenting me while at the same time not backing down from his position. Jerk.
As new pledges at ATO, we were required to learn and recite the ATO Creed, written by Otis Allan Glazebrook in 1880. At the time, they were just words to me, words I had to memorize as an assignment before I could move on to the next thing. But I’ve thought about those words a lot since Chris died. Part of the creed says: “To know no north, no south, no east, no west, but to know man as man; to teach that true men the world over should stand together and contend for supremacy of good over evil; to teach not politics but morals; to foster not partisanship but the recognition of true merit wherever found; to have no narrower limits within which to work together for the elevation of man than the outlines of the world.”
I can count on one finger the person I know who embodies those words.
I miss Chris every day. I miss his insight into world affairs, I miss the feeling that the world was a better safer place with him in it. I miss hearing the jokes I’m sure he would make about American diplomacy now being conducted by Dennis Rodman. I have been very moved by the testimonials from those who met him and worked with him since the years I got to know him at Cal. They all without exception describe the same outgoing, optimistic, cheerful, romantic person I knew. He still had that same big toothy grin and infectious sense of humor that captivated everyone who knew him around the world. He still took his work seriously without taking himself seriously. He still loved running. He could still pull off an ascot. Despite every reason not to, he remained optimistic that the world could be made a better place.
You should know, I’m not a religious person. I generally don’t look to ancient texts for enlightenment, except possibly Shakespeare and every once in a while Star Trek. But like everyone else, I sometimes need guidance, perspective, and in the last seven months since Chris died, in moments of stress or frustration or anger, I have asked myself, “WWJD?What would JohnChristopherStevens Do?” I know he would take a breath, take a step back, take a run, sip some coffee, sip some sherry, watch a sunset, listen to some music — possibly a little Coltrane playing A Night in Tunisia, but more likely some early 80s soft-rock — and he would remind me that there are more good guys than bad guys, we have more in common than we don’t have in common, that we need to be diligent and better about communicating our point of view, and that we do best and get the best results when we listen and engage with the other guy’s point of view.
I’m so glad my children got to meet Chris. Sadly, this week reminds us that their are villains in the world, people who would wish us harm. But there are also heroes. My kids got to meet a real hero in Chris Stevens. Real heroes don’t wear capes. As we saw in Boston, sometimes they wear running shoes — or an ascot.
I was made aware of Chris Stevens shortly before the Arab Spring, and slowly became aware of his work over the next months. It is because of his life and work that I decided to study International Policy at Indiana University, and hope to continue the work that he was a part of in the future.
It was also an honor to listen to the Honorable Richard Lugar give a lecture at my university on February 18th, where he made special mention and note of Ambassador Stevens and the path he led.
I am truly sorry the the world lost such a good human being.
Ambassador Stevens has inspired me to do so much with my life and I am eternally grateful for everything he has done. I plan on following a similar life path and doing everything I can to continue his efforts. Thank you Chris, I don’t think I could ever think of anyone to be a better hero than you are to me.
John Natsoulas Center For The Arts presents: The Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens Exhibit: Artists for Peace and Common Understanding between the Peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States
On April 6th, 2013, we will celebrate the life and accomplishments of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens with live jazz and an exhibit of original art with an emphasis on Middle Eastern and North African artists and themes. Chris loved the land and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa; he went beyond the walls of the Embassy to learn first hand the concerns of the people. Secretary Hilary Clinton referred to him as a “Jazz Diplomat,” always improvising the next stage of conversation and collaboration as he made friends for the United States.
We will also be holding a sub-exhibit of small works of art from friends, relatives, and artists touched by Chris’s story. Chris Stevens will always be remembered by his friends and family for his post cards from foreign lands. As early as age 7, he sent postcards to keep in touch and maintain relationships throughout the years. We wish to continue in the tradition of this democratic art form - anyone can enter, and all entries received will be included in this exhibition. The small works can be visual, written word (memories, poetry), or combinations. All entries must be postcard size with postage attached.
Overall the exhibition will bring together artists from around the world with the goal to create a lively, visual dialogue about peace and cultural acceptance between the United States and countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which we hope will continue to grow long after the exhibition is over.
Chris had a passion for building bridges between the peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States. In this spirit a fund has been established in his name to support his important, yet unfinished, endeavor. All proceeds from the exhibition will go toward the J. Christopher Stevens Fund (see www.rememberingchrisstevens.com).
think often about our treasured friend Chris Stevens, most especially on days like today when hearings in Washington again remind us of his horrible death in Benghazi. Our nation lost one of its finest ambassadors, a man whose care for the people to whom America sent him showed early on in his service as a Peace Corps volunteer. But here I want to point out that he was not only an enthusiast for the the Middle East and North Africa; he was also a great admirer of all that was good about Iran. We became good friends in the late 90’s when I was a State Department analyst for Iran and he was the new foreign service desk officer for Iran. His interest in that country’s people and culture was exceptional; he borrowed many of my Iran books, we went to Iranian films together, and he valued numerous Iranian-American friends, all while staying true the mission of his own profession. In 1998 he more than anyone urged me to start the new Persian Service at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which began as “Radio Free Iran” and became “Radio Farda.” The photo of us is from summer, 2006, at our house in Alexandria, where so many times he delighted my wife Dolores and me with his boundless optimism and enthusiasm. — Stephen Fairbanks, Alexandria VA
hello from Benghazi to the family and specially the kids i swear every time i see his picture i f33l like he was a very good man and he never deserve what happen he wa live among us he was very humble and down to earth and he is getting closer from people where he live and i never seen lovely personality as him before , it was stupid thing to kill him no one replace this man it was usa mistake they knew weapons every where and many crazy people here and Benghazi isn’t safe place he suppose to be in Tripoli at that time specially after the movie and 11.11.2011 same history i hope my word reduce some pain inside me and inside who read my message coz i have good insight to know nice people from first glance please accept my profuse apologize
The death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 hit very close to home as our own Austin Tichenor and Chris were old friends from high school and college roommates. For this reduced audio wake, Austin is joined by fellow roommate Steven McDonald as they share memories and pay tribute to this extraordinary man. Featuring lessons in confidence, stories of bravery, examples of the value of a broad and wide liberal arts education, diplomatic responses to undergraduate theatre, unfortunate attempts to politicize his death, and the embodiment of humor and grace under pressure. (Length 32:46)
In the weeks since Ambassador J. Christopher “Chris” Stevens (Morocco 1983-85) was killed, the National Peace Corps Association has been — and continues to be — in conversation with members of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community interested in finding ways to honor his legacy.
Peace Corps Week 2013 will take place February 24 – March 2, 2013. RPCVs wishing to carry on the legacy of Ambassador Stevens are encouraged to join in Third Goal activities, which aim to help Americans understand the people and the cultures of other countries. More information at the link above.
December 11, 2012 Memories of Chris from Cousin Becca
Tonight at midnight, it is three months since my cousin Anne phoned me with the terrible news first that Chris was missing, and then that he had been killed. I have known that I wanted to contribute to this wonderful Remembering Chris Stevens site since it launched. Until now, I haven’t been able to bring myself to write. But three months is long enough to delay, and too long to have not had Chris with us. Every day is ever-more “too long.”
Chris is my first cousin…literally. When I wasn’t even four months old he was born to my mother’s only sister. Chris and I were pseudo-siblings from our very beginnings, before our actual brothers and sisters were born. Our mothers are very close. Our dads were always friends , even after both of our sets of parents divorced. My brothers Wint and Matt and I lived for the weekends and holidays when we would go to “Chris-‘n’-Anne’s” and then “Chris-n-Anne-n-Tom’s,” or they to our house, or best of all, we would all meet in Nevada City and Grass Valley to visit our grandparents, enjoy the old fashioned small town life and 4th of July parades, swim in the Yuba River, and run wild, playing until nightfall, as baby boomers could do. Later, our little sisters Camila and Hilary would join us, or enjoy reunions of their own through our dads’ and amazing stepmoms’ friendships. We would fight against the time when our parents would say we had to leave, yelling, “Nooooo!!!” and hiding out in each other’s family cars to try to sneak home with the departing cousins. Anne would sing the Beatles’, “Hello, hello! I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello!” as we drove away.
Chris and my relationship had its early boy-girl strains: Love and hugs, alternating with him pulling out great handfuls of my hair when we were very young; performances with our siblings as fellow cast or band members; Chris commanding his personal army of Tom, Wint and Matt to attack “the girls” (eeeuw!)— me and Anne—and our counterattacks. But we were always the “oldests” and were responsible for our siblings. We would lead the walks into Nevada City across the Pine Street Bridge to look for rocks at “The Rock Shop” for his collection. We would plan the games. We would plan our teams’ strategies for the annual “Turkey Bowl” Thanksgiving Day football games. We played together on family camping and hiking trips, tennis games at Uncle Jan and Karen’s place in Davis, or on Pajaro Dunes vacations. We shared shock and grief when my dad cooked up a “pet” Dungeness crab Chris had found on an Oregon beach on one of our camping trips, and the parents enjoyed it with some nice white wine.
When we were older, our relationship became one of special friendship. Chris started at UC Berkeley in my sophomore year. My AGD sorority sisters delighted in his great personality and good looks. I enjoyed his interesting and talented ATO friends. When we didn’t want to deal with relationship complications, we could do things with each other: all the fun of a good date, none of the drama! I remember when we were given tickets to the San Francisco Opera by one of our parents and we borrowed my dad’s convertible sports car, got all dressed up, and pretended we were in a James Bond movie as we zipped across the Bay Bridge singing the Bond theme song and spy-lurking, hugging walls, and ducking behind trees, as we made our way across Civic Center plaza to the Opera House.
I could trust Chris completely; he had my back and I had his. We had known each other for our whole lives. We shared a family culture and history. We could laugh and be silly, or be serious and talk about both of our interests in international policy. We were so happy when both of us ended up after graduate school in Washington DC, launching careers in international trade. We helped co- host and hostess for one another when necessary. And we talked about our hopes, dreams, and concerns. It was just understood, as it is with all of us Stevens/Reynolds siblings, that we were and would always be there for one another.
As so many postings on this site affirm, Chris had the great gift of truly being with whomever he was with. He delighted fully in each person and in each experience. Yet, I believe there was nothing like the special, relaxed, happy way that he delighted in being with his family, especially as he spent more time abroad in his diplomatic career. He would come home for every family occasion that he could. And, as his sister Anne said at one of this fall’s memorial events, we would all say with great anticipation, “Chris is coming!” He made it more fun. More special.
Chris was profoundly loyal and invested in the treasure of time with family, not just in collective gatherings, but one on one. As many friends as he had to see on his return visits to the Bay Area, he would take time for long talks with my dad, a Stanford economist and Latin Americanist who heartily encouraged Chris to follow his bliss and calling to the Near East. He made a point of coming to visit my dad and stepmom in my father’s final months of life, and supported us all with his loving concern after our dad’s death. He would visit my mother and stepdad and have leisurely lunches and stimulating conversations with them. He would take time to visit my brother’s new home, and hold the new baby(ies). He came all the way out by plane and train to the far reaches of northern New Mexico to attend my wedding, and give a loving, funny, deeply personal toast —then, drive my Subaru full of unfinished champagne back to Albuquerque and nearly drive off the road in an adrenalized fright when he heard “gunfire” pepper the car….”Terrorists in northern New Mexico?!?” When he smelled the champagne and saw the spray, he knew he had another wild adventure story to share with us all. The altitude had caused the champagne corks to pop!
We each lost a parent in the past few years and mourned together. We shared concerns about our remaining parents. We shared eldest siblings’ deep pride in our “little” brothers’ and sisters’/cousins’ impressive accomplishments. Without drama, without fanfare, with just a deep understanding that comes from shared lives, we just knew the other was there: that our families would always be there for each other. And so we have been, this long, sad, autumn of 2012.
I remember dancing wildly with Chris. I remember singing silly songs together. I remember fighting, and laughing and playing together. I remember Chris telling me, with as much passion and yearning as I think I had ever seen him express, how he felt called to make his life’s work in the Near and Middle East, but felt some responsibility to try a sensible career in international law. I remember cheering him on when he made the switch and entered the diplomatic corps. I remember long conversations over fine meals and wine. I remember talking policy and career strategies together. I remember him telling me how he smiled and loved the image when I told him I envisioned our parents Clark and Karen toasting him in heaven with champagne when he was appointed and confirmed as US Ambassador to Libya. I remember us sharing his great sense of honor and pride to serve under such brilliant Secretaries of State and the first black President of the United States, representing our country in the region he so loved. I remember him welcoming us with such joy when members of the family would visit him in his various posts – delighting in introducing us to the rich cultures he so admired. I remember him admitting that the more he travelled, the less relaxed he was on the airplanes. I remember him acknowledging the dangers of his circumstances, and admitting that he didn’t at all like the sense of threat to safety and freedom, but that the meaning and pleasure in his work more than compensated. I remember him taking my son under his wing and mentoring him and encouraging him, showing him the halls of judicial and legislative power, and monuments to great men, in Washington, DC. I remember wild and woolly instrumental jam sessions at our grandparents’ house, with the whole family playing raucously, wearing strange hats (because that’s what this family does!). I remember sharing our 50th birthday cakes at his surprise party. I remember Chris as the one person who lived in parallel every part of my life’s time line, and who I thought would be on the track next to me out until the distant future.
As we come close to Christmas and my birthday, when I and our whole family would be assured of a wonderful, attentive, loving phone call, or a face-to-face visit, I remember how much I love Chris and miss him — my more-than-cousin.
We Added The Names of the Benghazi Four To the 9.11 Memorial in Patriots Park in Venice, Florida
The real Heroes are those who have given their lives in the War on Terrorism…
The 9.11 Victims and Fallen Military Heroes Memorial in Venice, Florida is the 1st and only in the entire country to HONOR Our Fallen Heroes who were lost in Benghazi by engraving their names along with Our Fallen Military Heroes on the walls (see attached) of the 9.11 Memorial in Patriots Park in Venice, Florida, where terrorist were trained and plotted the attacks on September 11, 2001. For more details please go to www.saltoftheearthusa.org.
J. Christopher Stevens, Ambassador
Sean Smith, Information Officer
Glen Doherty, Navy SEAL
Tyron Woods, Navy SEAL
Please know that I had written to Retired General, David H. Petraeus, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency requesting that the two (2) former Navy SEAL’s be awarded with the Distinguished Intelligence Cross to further Honor them.
We have already engraved 115 names on the walls of the 9.11 Memorial which includes Civilians, 1st Responders and Fallen Military Heroes including All 76 Navy SEAL’s that have been killed in the war on terrorism. There are 337 names of Floridian Fallen Military Heroes listed on the following Database: Floridians killed in the war on terror - OrlandoSentinel.com. Our mission is to get as many names as possible engraved on the 9.11 Memorial by Christmas Eve. This Memorial is NOT just for Floridians, please go to www.saltoftheearthusa.org and make a donation in any amount to help us defray the cost of engraving names of those who were killed in the war on terrorism. Click on the National Database of Our Fallen Military HeroesHonor the Fallenand select a name.
If you want to personally sponsor a name please go to www.saltoftheearthusa.org follow the instructions on how to get a name(s) engraved on the 9.11 Memorial or to get a Paver Brick engraved.
We Will Never Forget!
“For he to-day who sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother”- William Shakespeare
My name is Steve McDonald. Chris and I have been friends since we both pledged the ATO fraternity at UC Berkeley in 1978. I want to thank Chris’s family for allowing me the honor of speaking today as we celebrate Chris’s amazing life.
Look at this crowd! How did Chris achieve so much success in his life and career, while managing to make personal and professional connections and lifelong friends all over the world? This beautiful, light filled rotunda is the perfect setting to honor Chris, a true renaissance man who offered a lesson in modern day Enlightenment to all he met.
Some say “don’t sweat the small stuff”; but I think Chris was successful because he did pay attention to the little details and common courtesies that showed the world he cared. The roots of Chris’s enlightening character were evident back when we were undergrads at Cal. I’d like to share some examples.
First, starting superficially, there was Chris’s sense of fashion. Chris, like many of our pledge class, was from Piedmont. I recall thinking “what’s with all these guys from Piedmont? And what’s with the Khakis, penny loafers, and button down shirts?” Chris lived in the room across from mine, and it seemed he adopted this as his uniform. In hindsight, he helped guide us away from that dark time, that fashion faux pas known as the disco era.
Who knew Chris would work his timeless style for the next 34 years? And look at the effect he had on me!! Who’s wearing the button down NOW??? Thus my first life lesson from Chris: Stick with the classics; they won’t go out of style. HOWEVER, my wife Sally has gently advised me the definition of a classic look does not extend to certain flannel shirts from 1982…
The second example of a lesson learned involved a little culture, beyond the stereotypical fraternity life experience. I was lucky enough to room with Chris and another famous Piedmonter, Austin Tichenor. Talk about enlightenment! Chris promptly dubbed our large room on the second floor “the Triple Occupancy Club”. Little did I know, rooming with these high school friends came with the added bonus of an extracurricular education in the arts. Chris arrived with a stack of LPs , many courtesy of his stepdad Bob Commanday (the Chronicle’s music critic at the time). Austin contributed his eclectic collection of musical theatre and comedy recordings, and, well, himself. Nothing more need be said on that point…
Balancing out this urbane culture, Chris invited me on a trip to Grass Valley to visit Chris’s Grandpa, where we got to do a little gold panning from the “virgin” lode of dirt from under the basement—a lesson in the living history of the Stevens Family!
I’ll never forget what a great experience it was to live with these guys.
Everyone knows how brilliant Chris was; and how he demonstrated his intelligence in a truly enlightened manner. Chris was probably the smartest guy in the room, but he never comported himself that way. He was confident and outgoing, but never arrogant; always self effacing, always quick with a laugh or a grin, and always looking for ways to learn something from everyone around him. No surprise, considering Chris came from such good stock.
Chris studied Western Civilizations; and immersed himself in the cultures and languages he studied. He took multiple trips to study abroad—in Spain, France and Italy; and Morocco, when he joined the Peace Corps.
Perhaps most importantly, Chris knew how to relax, and enjoy the moment. When I would periodically freak out about my course work or some other problem, he’d make me stop, take a break, maybe play a game of backgammon on the balcony, and enjoy the view. Another early lesson in Zenlike Mindfulness from Chris. No wonder he excelled in such a challenging and stressful career.
But I don’t want you to think Chris was perfect. After extensive research we came up with at least one blemish on his record…sort of. The only time I ever saw Chris lose his temper was when we were sharing a double room our last year, and some less enlightened brothers decided to make a bunch of noise late at night during finals week. When yelling at these guys didn’t do the trick, Chris burst out of bed, went onto the balcony, grabbed a (water) fire extinguisher, and let them have it. He seemed much less angry when he came back into the room, and particularly pleased when the guys he drenched came up the stairs yelling MY name.
Ambassador Stevens did NOT bother to correct the record as to who was responsible, and I feel this is a rare example of a failed diplomatic effort on his part…but he did seem to sleep remarkably well afterward.
Another lesson offered by the Chris Stevens guide to Enlightenment involved his views on the value of things.
Chris did not care so much about things; except maybe when they were a means to an end: providing access to people, places, culture and activities he wanted to experience. Some examples from the archive:
His TYPEWRITER. Chris arrived at Cal with a fancy electric typewriter, a coveted object in that pre laptop/pre PC era. Chris decided that beautiful machine was too bulky to carry around, and he didn’t like being tethered to an electrical outlet. So one day he traded it in for a little Olivetti Manual typewriter. He was so proud of that little machine; he loved the satisfying tactile experience of using it, which he did very well.
His SHOES. As enlightened members of a fraternity, we threw an annual Great Gatsby Party. This was a major event, with live bands, a speakeasy in the basement, a pond and waterfall in the back; even a duck. Chris wanted to dress the part, and was delighted to find a snazzy pair of gaudy black and white wingtips at a thrift store which fit the bill. He seemed undeterred by the fact they were GOLF SPIKES and he would literally be cutting a rug. He simply unscrewed the spikes. Those floors needed refinishing anyway.
His COFFEE. Chris was one of the first people I knew in that pre-starbucks era who bought coffee beans and a little coffee maker to set up in our room. He insisted this was better than the rotgut in the kitchen, and I have to admit, he was right. Another example of Chris showing me how to live in the moment. And I laughed when I read Senator McCain’s recent remarks, recalling when Chris insisted on personally brewing the Senator a proper cup of cappuccino during their meetings in Libya.
His DONKEY. The picture of Chris on a Donkey made me laugh out loud, and reminded me of a priceless letter I received from Chris when he was there. Chris wrote wonderful notes filling us in on his experiences, and in this instance, he told us of a time he went running near the village where he was staying, only to have some locals run alongside and ask “where is it?” Where did it go?” Where is what? “your DONKEY. Where did it go? I don’t have a Donkey. Then why are you running? For Exercise. Exercise??? If you want some exercise, why don’t you come work in my orchard, you crazy American!
Chris succeeded because he knew how to laugh at himself, and how to relate to people around him.
Two more memories I have to share:
GOVERNMENT AND JAZZ
Chris always wanted to work for in the Foreign Service, and he first took the Foreign Service Exam during our days at Cal. He came back pleased with his results on the written exam, but felt he did not do so well on the Orals. He was perplexed by one question in particular: “Please compare American Government and Jazz Music”.
Chris told us he didn’t quite know how to handle this question, and my suggestion that maybe both forms involve people blowing their horn or banging on a drum was probably not helpful. We decided they must ask questions like this just to see how the applicant would react, to try to trip him up.
We didn’t have the Internet to find the answer, but we eventually figured it out. And even though Chris may not have come up with the answer during the exam, he certainly lived the message taught by this interesting comparison.
Both American Democracy and Jazz involve an ongoing experiment; both involve unscripted action and improvisation as we figure out the best way to get along ; both depend on a group allowing a soloist/representative to step forward and recite his piece, while the rest of the group provides background harmony and rhythm.
And when both forms work, the world is treated to a remarkable result, where ad hoc and seemingly dissonant voices become greater than the sum of their parts, and beautiful music literally and figuratively ensues.
We all know the amazing things Chris achieved when he led the way as America collaborated with the Libyan people and our allies to help them move toward greater freedoms and a representative form of government. The Middle East, and especially Libya, was Chris’ bandstand, and he knew all the members gained through collaboration and cultural exchange.
One last memory I must share, on a personal note: Our daughter Maggie was born in 1994 with profound, life threatening problems, and she required many surgeries and long hospitalizations during the first few years. The Chronicle ran a story about Maggie in 1996, and Chris’ mom, Mary, cut it out and sent it to Chris while he was posted in Cairo. Chris took time out from his duties to write us a thoughtful note expressing his concern and wishing us well, even commenting on how cute Maggie was. He closed the note as follows:
“As they say in this part of the world: “Rabbina Ya Sahel” (May Allah make things easier for you”)
And this is my wish for Chris’s family and friends today as we mourn his loss…
The world never saw a kinder, more resolute, and enlightened soul than Chris Stevens. His integrity and character, his empathy, courage and tolerance were ever present, and unchanging, even with all his success and fame, and in the face of every challenge. We feel so sad to have lost Chris; but so lucky to have known him. We will do everything we can to make sure his memory lives on, and to foster and support the kind of “people first” diplomacy he stood for and advocated, both at home and abroad.