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Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens
Ambassador Christopher Stevens
A native of the San Francisco area's East Bay, a graduate of UC Berkeley and Hastings College of Law, a former Peace Corps volunteer and a diplomat who had worked in Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, and Jerusalem, in addition to Libya, Christopher Stevens was a natural choice to become U.S. envoy to the rebel movement that overthrew Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. His life's work had been about diplomacy. He understood the risks. In the midst of great danger, he had snuck himself back into Libya during the uprising.

Stevens was willing to take such risks not for money or glory, but to make the world a better place, and if not for the heartbreaking violence yesterday in Benghazi most of us probably wouldn't have ever heard of him. Diplomacy is usually quiet work, and, with notable exceptions, diplomats are usually unknown to the public. Theirs is the work of quietly attempting to create dialogue and to foster peace. It is a noble calling:

"The death of Chris Stevens is a travesty," said friend Robin Wright, a journalist who worked extensively in the Middle East who is now a scholar at the United State Institute of Peace.

"He represented the very best of American diplomacy. He knew the streets, not the just the elites. He had an infection enthusiasm about the extraordinary history playing out across the Middle East, which he witnessed up close," she said in a statement.

Stevens's friend Harvey Morris recounts his last communication from Stevens:
“The whole atmosphere has changed for the better,” he wrote. “People smile more and are much more open with foreigners. Americans, French and British are enjoying unusual popularity. Let’s hope it lasts!”
Thanks to the work of Stevens, his colleagues, and the Obama administration, the United States now enjoys extraordinary popularity among Libyans:
The U.S. in particular has an excellent opportunity to build a mutually beneficial, productive relationship with Libya for the first time in decades and could potentially find itself with a new, democratic ally in North Africa. A majority of Libyans (54%) surveyed in March and April 2012 approve of the leadership of the U.S. -- among the highest approval Gallup has ever recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region, outside of Israel.
In his official roles both during and after the Libyan uprising, Christopher Stevens was instrumental in creating that transformation.

As Morris recounts:

Mr. Stevens had many friends in the Arab world, including those who yesterday paid tribute to him in social media messages.

On Facebook yesterday, Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, an Egyptian novelist and former diplomat who knew Mr. Stevens from Jerusalem, posted: “One of the best people I met, an American who understood and empathized with the Arab predicament.”

Not only his family and friends, but the entire world suffered a great loss in the Benghazi attacks. During the Libyan uprising, Benghazi itself likely would have been destroyed by Qaddafi's forces if not for the efforts of Stevens and his colleagues. Stevens left the world a better place for his having been a part of it.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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