I’ve worked in public service positions my entire adult life. Public Service is rewarding in some aspects, but it can carry severe risk. A public servant is subject to whom he/she serves–the people. In the instance of Chris Stevens–the political morass called world politics.
So why do people choose to serve in the public arena? What compels an individual to risk life and limb, or even reputation, in the struggle to help others. I believe that there is a call on a person’s life that they recognize early on, and this call continues to persist until it becomes reality.
Public service encompasses many fields and has many applications. On a local scale it is the teacher, counselor, preacher, policeman, librarian, social worker, editor…I could go on. On the national and international level it is the Newscaster, the Senator, the Representative, the Judge, the President, the King/Queen, the Soldier, the Ambassasor… By the term public, the nature of the work is made known, and the implications of the task are defined. To perform public service work you must engage the public and all that term implies. This is where the rubber meets the road.
Commitment is a strong concept and action, and there are many who cannot commit. This is because committing involves giving over a large part of yourself to someone else’s control. It means serving when your own natural instincts scream “no”. It means making the decision to risk a loss in the effort to lift someone else up. It can span as wide as a neighborhood, a town, a nation, or the world. Over the span of history many public figures have been martyed.
I salute Ambassador Chris Stevens for the ultimate sacrifice he and others like him have made in the cause for peace. May their effort on behalf of the common good last for eternity to inspire others to also toil to serve the struggling masses regardless of differences in ideology or societal norms.
Chris Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed in Rocket Attack, Served As Envoy During Revolution
Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya killed along with three others in a rocket attack outside the American Consulate in Benghazi—ignited by protesters angry over a film they say insults Prophet Muhammad—was “a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” President Barack Obama said in his initial statement Wednesday condemning the attack.
Initial reports said the slain embassy staffers—who also include foreign service information management officer Sean Smith—were trying to flee the consulate building when they were fired upon. According to the Associated Press, a Libyan doctor who treated Stevens said the diplomat died of severe asphyxiation from smoke inhalation and that he tried for 90 minutes to revive him.
Stevens, 52, was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979, when Adolph Dubs, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was gunned down in a kidnapping attempt.
“Throughout the Libyan revolution, [Stevens] selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi,” Obama said. “As ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.”
Stevens, a California native and U.C.-Berkeley grad, was a 21-year veteran of foreign service, the White House said.
“I had the privilege of swearing in Chris for his post in Libya only a few months ago,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a separate statement. “He spoke eloquently about his passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people. This assignment was only the latest in his more than two decades of dedication to advancing closer ties with the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
“As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi,” Clinton continued. “He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started. Chris was committed to advancing America’s values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger.”
In response to the attack, the United States is “deploying elite Marine counterterrorism teams to Libya,” Foreign Policy reports. The Pentagon is sending Fleet Anti-Terrorism Teams, or FAST teams, a U.S. defense official told the magazine.
“It’s especially tragic because Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city he fought to save,” Obama said later Wednesday morning in hastily arranged public remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Speaking at an impromptu press conference in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday, Mitt Romney condemned Tuesday’s attacks as “disgusting” and “outrageous,” but he also attacked the Obama administration for standing by a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that he claimed was an “apology” for American values.
Late Tuesday, Romney issued a statement saying it was “disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” On Wednesday, he stood by his criticism of the White House.
Ambassador Chris Stevens considers himself fortunate to participate in this incredible period of change and hope for Libya. As the President’s representative, his job is to develop a strong, mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Libya. Ambassador Stevens was the American representative to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi during the revolution.
When he’s not meeting with government officials or foreign diplomats, you can find Ambassador Stevens meeting with Libyan academics, business people, and civil society activists, exploring Libya’s rich archaeological sites, and enjoying Libya’s varied cuisine.
After several diplomatic assignments in the Middle East and North Africa, Ambassador Stevens understands and speaks Arabic and French. He likes the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and hopes you will, too.
“Growing up in California I didn’t know much about the Arab world,” Stevens continued. “I traveled to North Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, worked as an English teacher in a town in the high Atlas mountains in Morocco for two years and quickly grew to love this part of the world.
“We know Libya is still recovering from an intense period of conflict,” he added. “There are many courageous Libyans who wear the scars of that battle.”