HPPR hosts & contributors
Wed September 12, 2012
Ambassador To Libya Was Passionate About His Work
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this about the slain ambassador, Christopher Stevens.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: He risked his life to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses.
BLOCK: Earlier this year, before Chris Stevens assumed his position as ambassador to Libya, he made a video, subtitled in Arabic, directed to the Libyan people. It was posted on the U.S. Embassy's website and on YouTube.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO CLIP)
AMBASSADOR CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: As-salamu alaykum. My name is Chris Stevens, and I'm the new U.S. ambassador to Libya. I had the honor to serve as the U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition during the revolution, and I was thrilled to watch the Libyan people stand up and demand their rights. Now I'm excited to return to Libya to continue the great work we've started, building a solid partnership between the United States and Libya to help you, the Libyan people, achieve your goals.
BLOCK: Chris Stevens spoke Arabic as well as French, a career diplomat for more than 21 years. Stevens said he came to love North Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in the mountains of Morocco. He went on to the Foreign Service with posts in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Israel. Patrick Garvey was a close friend of Stevens and worked with him when Garvey was a foreign policy adviser in the Senate. He kept in touch with Stevens when he took on the ambassador post in Libya. Patrick Garvey, thanks for coming in. And I'm very sorry for your loss.
PATRICK GARVEY: It's nice to be here.
BLOCK: Chris Stevens was only the ambassador there since May, but he had served in Libya for two years when Gadhafi was still in power and then was sent last year as a special envoy to the Libyan rebels. Did he talk about feeling a deep connection to the Libyan people and to that country?
GARVEY: I think you have to, to take on roles like this and to go places where the rest of us wouldn't be willing to go and risk your own skin for something you believe in. You have to believe in your country and the values that you're bringing forth. And you have to believe in the people that you're going to be an envoy to. And I think Chris did that.
BLOCK: He talked about when he went to work with the rebels in Benghazi a year ago, he was sent in a cargo ship. Does that fit his style?
GARVEY: Well, it's interesting. It's a good - I remember when Chris was headed out there and I traded emails with him, and he's not a guy who needed to be brought to a situation in a corporate jet, arriving the way he needed to arrive, which was, at the time, I think he paid his fare in cash and went on a rusty Greek freighter from Malta. And I remember him sending an email to me - I couldn't - I looked for it this morning, couldn't find it - but sharing his perspective of the accommodations and food onboard the ship.
BLOCK: I've heard Chris Stevens described as somebody who had a real sense of the street, not just the political elites, that it was important to him to get out and hear from people about what was really going on.
GARVEY: I think so. And as I talked to colleagues and friends this morning and everyone talked about Chris' style, that of just a regular guy who you and I would enjoy sitting and talking to, having a glass of wine with or a beer with or a cup of coffee, whatever the situation (unintelligible), not only laid back and one of very self-depreciating but very approachable for people who worked for him, who wanted to go back with him, like the others that were killed yesterday too. People wanted to go work for him, liked him.
At his swearing in in May, I went with Senator Lugar and Secretary Clinton, of course, presided. And she doesn't preside over all swearing ins. She said some nice things. But if you looked around the room, it wasn't just people who wanted to be seen with the secretary or seen with Senator Lugar. It was people who liked Chris and liked - loved him.
BLOCK: I want to play you the very end of the video we were listening to. Chris Stevens was telling the Libyan people that he saw great opportunities for partnership in areas like education and health care.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO CLIP)
STEVENS: I look forward to exploring these possibilities with you as we work together to build a free, democratic, prosperous Libya. See you soon.
BLOCK: See you soon. How troubled was Chris Stevens, do you think, by the fissures and the violence that were still very much present in that country after the revolution?
GARVEY: If I recall correctly sitting at the hearing, his confirmation hearing back in the spring, I think we heard a very clear understanding of the nuisances and of the challenges ahead. But Chris wasn't Pollyannaish. He wasn't one who just thought he was going into some place that was going to be easy by any means. He didn't have an embassy. It had been destroyed in the revolution, so he knew he'd be working at a temporary quarters, and he was willing to do that on behalf of the future of U.S.-Libyan relations and the future of the - for the future of the people of Libya as well.
BLOCK: Patrick Garvey, thank you so much for coming in.
GARVEY: Melissa, thanks for having me.
BLOCK: Patrick Garvey, remembering his friend, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.