Peace Corps Community Mourns the Loss of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens
By Sarah Kana on Thursday, September 13th, 2012
On September 11, 2012, the world was shocked to learn that Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, who was also a TEFL Peace Corps Volunteer in Ouaouizehrt, Morocco from 1983-85, had been killed in attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Upon hearing the news, the National Peace Corps Association conveyed the condolences of the entire Peace Corps family and then shared the emerging news with the Peace Corps community via Facebook and Twitter.
In an address from White House lawn the next morning, President Obama praised Stevens, noting that both he and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had come to rely on the Ambassador’s expertise on Libya and the region. (read White House remarks here.). Earlier Secretary Clinton stated, “Chris Stevens fell in love with the Middle East as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco…the world needs more Chris Stevens’.”
In a statement from the Peace Corps, Director Aaron Williams said, “The entire Peace Corps community is deeply saddened by the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens…. Like so many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, he chose to continue his career in the international community by becoming a public servant. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues in the U.S. and in Libya.”
Tim Resch, President of the NPCA member group Friends of Morocco said “We hope that governments and people can act to make better sense of these senseless actions.” Ambassador Stevens was a longtime member and supporter of the group.
Valerie Staats (RPCV Morocco ’83-’85 and PC Country Director for Sierra Leone) was attending the worldwide Peace Corps Country Director Conference in Washington, and gave a very brief eulogy there, saying ”In our 1983 TEFL stage in Morocco, there was a tall, blond kid who was known, among other things, as the one with the unfailing old-school courtesy toward all. Chris always said he wanted to be an ambassador, and we didn’t doubt him,” remembers Staats. “Thanks to the Internet, we could keep in touch, and so we were all very proud when he was appointed Special Envoy to Libya, and later, the U.S. Ambassador. And we teased him, truthfully, that he hadn’t changed one bit since our Peace Corps Volunteer days almost 30 years ago. Chris devoted his career, and life, to improving relations between the Arabic/Islamic world and the West.”
Joel Rubin (Costa Rica 94-96) and former NPCA Board Member, who knew and worked with Stevens, was interviewed by MSNBC in the video clip above and he remembered Stevens in a post to his blog, titled “What Chris Stevens Taught Us”.
Not surprisingly, Peace Corps is well represented in the Foreign Service. The NPCA member group, RPCVs@State is comprised primarily of former Peace Corps Volunteers and staff. Founded in September 2008, it now has over 400 members in Washington, D.C. and around the world. Chris Stevens’ untimely death is a reminder of all the Americans around the globe — Peace Corps, Foreign Service, armed forces, journalists and aid workers — who are serving our country and the cause of peace in a variety of ways.
The entire Peace Corps community mourns the loss of Ambassador Stevens and his three State Department colleagues, and extends its deepest sympathies to their families, friends and colleagues.
Marco Werman of PRI’s The World, recently spoke about Ambassador Stevens, who was one of his former Peace Corps colleagues. You can listen to Werman’s tribute, here, the post also features photos.
UPDATE 9/19/12: The family of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco 83-85) has created a website, http://www.rememberingchrisstevens.com/, “to capture the memories of people touched by Chris, far and near.”
UPDATE 9/25/12: President Obama’s remarks at the U.N. General Assembly –
“Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.
Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco, and he came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East. He would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria; from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked – tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile….”