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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
NOVEMBER 2012
79
IN MEMORY
O
n Sept. 14, the remains of the four
American diplomatic personnel
who died in the terrorist attack on the
U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on
Sept. 11 returned to American soil. Teir
cofns, each draped with an American
fag, arrived aboard a military aircraft
at Andrews Air Force Base, where they
were solemnly received by President
Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton, other government of-
cials, family members, friends and State
Department colleagues.
AFSA President Susan Johnson, AFSA
Governing Board members and staf
were also in attendance at the cer-
emony.
“Four Americans, four patriots,”
President Barack Obama said in formal
remarks on the occasion. “Tey had a
mission, and they believed in it. Tey
knew the danger, and they accepted it.
Tey didn’t simply embrace the Ameri-
can ideal; they lived it, they embodied
it: the courage, the hope and, yes, the
idealism—that fundamental American
belief that we can leave this world a little
better than before.”
n
John Christopher Stevens
, 52, a
career FSO who had been confrmed as
the U.S. ambassador to Libya in May,
was on his third tour in that country
when he was killed.
Christopher Stevens was born in 1960
in Grass Valley, Calif., and grew up in the
East Bay community of Piedmont. He
was an American Field Service Inter-
cultural Programs exchange student in
Spain during the summer of 1977. After
graduating from Piedmont High School
the next year, he went on to earn a B.A.
degree in history at the University of
California, Berkeley in 1982.
In 1983 he undertook his frst over-
seas service, teaching English as a Peace
Corps Volunteer in the Atlas Mountains
of Morocco for two years. “In our Peace
Corps training in Morocco, there was a
tall, blond kid who was known, among
other things, as the one with the unfail-
ing old-school courtesy toward all,”
Valerie Staats, now Peace Corps director
in Sierra Leone, states in a tribute to her
slain colleague on Stevens’ Facebook
page. Mr. Stevens, she recalls, “always
said he wanted to be an ambassador,
and we didn’t doubt him.”
Returning to the United States, he
entered law school, graduating with a
J.D. from the University of California’s
Hastings College of the Law in San
Francisco in 1989. He received an M.S.
degree from the National War College
in 2010.
Mr. Stevens joined the Foreign Ser-
vice in 1991, after working for two years
as an international trade attorney in
Washington, D.C. Fluent in Arabic and
French, he focused on the Middle East
during his 21-year diplomatic career. His
overseas assignments included service
as consular/economic ofcer in Riyadh,
consular/political ofcer in Cairo, politi-
cal ofcer in Damascus, and deputy
principal ofcer and political section
chief in Jerusalem.
In Washington, he served as director
of the Ofce of Multilateral Nuclear and
Security Afairs, a Pearson Fellow with
the Senate Foreign Relations Commit-
tee, a special assistant to the under sec-
retary for political afairs, an Iran desk
ofcer and a staf assistant in the Bureau
of Near Eastern Afairs.
Prior to his appointment as the frst
U.S. ambassador to post-Qadhaf Libya,
Amb. Stevens had already served in the
country twice. From 2007 to 2009, fol-
lowing the resumption of U.S. diplo-
matic relations with Moammar Qad-
haf’s government when the mercurial
leader was trying to mend relations with
Washington, Stevens was deputy chief of
mission in Tripoli.
Later, from March to November
2011, during the uprising that eventu-
ally overthrew the Qadhaf regime, he
served as a special representative to the
National Transitional Council. Dur-
ing that assignment, Stevens displayed
the qualities of courage, commitment,
resourcefulness and unfappability for
which he had become known.
With a civil war in progress in Libya,
Ambassador Stevens and his team
arrived at post in an unconventional
manner: on a Greek cargo ship from
Malta. Describing the experience in a
talk at Diplomats and Consular Ofcers,
Retired, on May 3, he downplayed the
obvious dangers of his work, as he did
routinely, to focus on the mission: sup-
port for a democratic transition in Libya.
“It’s especially tragic that Chris
Stevens died in Benghazi, because it is
a city that he helped to save,” President
Barack Obama said in a brief tribute
at the While House on Sept. 12. “He
worked tirelessly to support this young
democracy.”
“Funny and charming, with a broad
smile and wide curiosity” is the way col-
leagues described Mr. Stevens to
Wash-
ington Post
correspondent Anne Gearan,
pointing out that he made friends easily
and kept them. He was candid and had
a direct style of speaking, they added,
a trait that won him fans among Arabs
and a following among journalists who
covered Middle East hot spots.
Stevens was well-known for haggling
at the shops of the Old City in Jerusalem
and lingering over cofee in the walled
Old City in Tripoli. He enjoyed mingling
with Arabs and sought a street-level view
of events, often chafng at the post-9/11
security measures that sometimes con-