What Chris Stevens Taught Us

Chris Stevens and three American colleagues from the U.S. mission in Libya were killed by a mob yesterday. The first American governmental deaths in the Arab world since the Arab Spring began less than two years ago, their deaths should be a clarion call to our country about the risks that those who serve our country abroad take. And Chris’ example of religious tolerance, support for freedom, and belief in democracy should be followed in the days ahead, as we respond to this tragedy.

I first met Chris when he served as a congressional fellow in the U.S. Senate working for the Foreign Relations Committee. He was a career Foreign Service Officer and a former Peace Corps Volunteer, meaning that he lived his life promoting American values and ideas around the world. While I was a Democratic Senate staffer and Chris worked for a Republican member, it was clear that those values infused his every move. He wasn’t partisan; he worked across the aisle; he was professional and kind. And above all, he was friendly. Friendly to me and friendly to my wife, alongside whom he worked. Everyone liked Chris.

I remember that when Chris was named as our envoy to the Libyan rebels, I sent him a congratulatory note, and he quickly responded back. He was positive and realistic - an idealist who understood the corridors of power in Washington and the streets of Benghazi. 

Already there are those who are attempting to use Chris’ death to promote their own political agendas. Chris wouldn’t have supported that. Chris understood that he was living in a volatile place. He knew the risks. And he would never engage in finger pointing about tragic events such as the one that caused him to leave us.

So in the days ahead, as loud voices rise up to try to explain the motivations of his killers, or the skills of our leaders, or the reason for why patriotic Americans like Chris are giving their life to promote a better world, let’s remember Chris’ example and follow it. A little bit more of Chris in each of us will help make this world into the place that Chris would want it to be.

Photo by RogerGlenn