A year after US Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi, American diplomacy needs his guile and wisdom in the Middle East.
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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 this important, yet unfinished, endeavor.
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.
I am looking over the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
The same dusty brown hills like a year ago.
The same blue sky and blinding sun like a year ago.
A man on a bicycle, and a dog barking.
The call of the muezzin from the minaret.
Everything the same, and yet, nothing is.
I can still hear your voice telling me to be careful.
It has been a horrible year. I and many others miss you so very much.
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.
Elmer Mark Kropp, MD
I did not ever know you or your family. I want to tell your family the saddest I and my husband feel around your loss.
We continue to monitor what happen and hope you are feeling some peace. Please know that many of us quiet americans do watch and care about what happened.
God bless you Chris Stevens. America needs more like you. You, and the very hard work you have done will NEVER be forgotten.
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” planned in 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.
Published by CNN.com on June 26, 2013
Saturday, June 8, 2013