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On the Passing of Henry A. Kissinger

On the Passing of Henry A. Kissinger

Henry Kissinger once wrote that, “however different the great statesmen of history, they had a common sense of the past and a vision for the future.” Henry was not only a student of history and strategy. Over the course of an extraordinary 100 years, he made both.  

His family fled to the United States from Nazi Germany in 1938, when he was 15 years old. Finding refuge in America, he later wrote, “I personally experienced what our nation meant to the rest of the world, especially to the persecuted and disadvantaged.”

He loved the nation that had taken in his family and, for the rest of his life, felt a duty and a desire to serve America, its people, its idea. 

Drafted into the U.S. Army at age 19, he joined the Allied forces that liberated Europe in World War Two, earning a Bronze Star for uncovering a Nazi sleeper cell.

The timeless challenge facing all diplomats, Kissinger observed, is having to make pivotal decisions when time is short, information is incomplete, and consequences are unknowable. Unlike the historian, the academic, or the analyst, Henry wrote, “The statesman is permitted only one guess; his mistakes are irretrievable.”

As Secretary of State and as National Security Advisor, Henry made countless history-bending decisions. To serve as America’s chief diplomat today is to move through a world that bears Henry’s lasting imprint – from the relationships he forged, to the tools he pioneered, to the architecture he built.

Henry wrote that, “For any student, change is the law of life.” A lifelong student, Henry anticipated and understood the forces changing our world, and helped us grapple with their implications. Even in his tenth decade, he was as determined to look to the future as he was to the past.

It was Henry’s enduring capacity to bring his strategic acumen and intellect to bear on the emerging challenges of each passing decade that led Presidents, Secretaries of State, National Security Advisors, and other leaders from both parties to seek his counsel. Including me – whether I was traveling to China more than 50 years after his transformative trip, or seeking his counsel as we shaped our approach to artificial intelligence, on which he was thinking, writing, and advising prolifically, up to the final weeks of his life.  

Few people were better students of history – and even fewer people did more to shape history – than Henry Kissinger.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/on-the-passing-of-henry-a-kissinger/