Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Warren Christopher

He was the most formal of men and one of America's finest public servants, but to his friends and family, he was simply Chris. Behind the seasoned diplomat was the boy who endured the Depression in the plains of North Dakota and the young ensign who served in World War II. He was modest yet fiercely determined, a true gentleman, honest and honorable. That is how he won the confidence of Presidents from Johnson to Carter to Clinton and navigated the delicate diplomatic challenges of the late 20th century — from negotiating the release of American hostages in Iran to bringing parties to peace in the Middle East and the Balkans to charting U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War.

"Get out in the stream of history," his mentor, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, once told him, "and swim as fast as you can." During an extraordinary life of service to America, Warren Christopher didn't just swim in the stream of history. He shaped it.

Donilon is National Security Adviser to President Obama