Saturday, April 23, 2011

Richard Holbrooke (April 24, 1941)

Obituaries for Richard Holbrooke (who died in December, 2010) depicted a career diplomat who made a difference, especially for his role in the Dayton Peace Accords ending the war in Bosnia. Holbrooke was raised as a Quaker; his parents were totally assimilated Jews who had fled from Hitler. While never religious, he says he “never had any doubt about my background, my parents never disguised it.”

The following statements strike me as an impressive collection:
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Holbrooke's death was "a big loss for the American people."
  • Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said: "His services will be long remembered. The best tribute to him is to reiterate our resolve to root out extremism and usher in peace."
  • The Anti Defamation League statement said: “He was proud of his Jewish identity and he was a good friend of the state of Israel. His death is a loss to the world, to America, and to the Jewish people,”
  • And Holbrooke himself said “When I joined the foreign service in 1962, my grandmother was still alive; she was Swiss-Jewish, not German-Jewish, and she said, ‘How can you be a diplomat? Jews can’t possibly succeed in the diplomatic world; it’s not possible.’ I said to my grandmother something like, ‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about.’ It never occurred to me.”

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