Madam Secretary

Clinton recalls Holbrooke as ‘giant of the diplomatic corps for almost 50 years’

Speaking a short time before she learned of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s death yesterday evening, Secretary Clinton recalled him as a "giant of the diplomatic corps for almost 50 years" and said he was "practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period." She joked, "He’s a fierce negotiator. I’m sure there are some shoulders ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Speaking a short time before she learned of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s death yesterday evening, Secretary Clinton recalled him as a "giant of the diplomatic corps for almost 50 years" and said he was "practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period." She joked, "He’s a fierce negotiator. I’m sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting." Clinton made the remarks (in their entirety below) while greeting a holiday reception for chiefs of diplomatic missions to the United States.

Upon learning of Holbrooke’s death later in the evening, Clinton gathered at George Washington University Hospital with dozens of other State Department officials as well as current and former Holbrooke aides, according to Laura Rozen over at Politico. Rozen wrote late yesterday night:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and about forty senior State Department officials, and Holbrooke aides past and present spontaneously gathered at George Washington Hospital tonight when they heard the news that the veteran diplomat had died, and later shut down a nearby hotel reminiscing about him.

Secretary Clinton "was incredible," the official continued. "She pulled everyone together." 

Clinton’s complete remarks about Holbrooke from yesterday’s reception, made before learning of his death:

He is practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period. He’s taken on the hardest assignments, from Vietnam to the Balkans to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this week, his doctors are learning what diplomats and dictators around the world have long known: There’s nobody tougher than Richard Holbrooke. He’s a fierce negotiator. I’m sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting.

But he is a fiercer friend and a beloved mentor and an invaluable counselor. He has been a friend of mine for many years and I am deeply grateful for his presence and support. When I came to the State Department, I was delighted to be able to bring Richard in and give him one of the most difficult challenges that any diplomat can face. And he immediately put together an absolutely world class staff. It represents what we believe should be the organizational model for the future – people not only from throughout our own government, but even representatives from other governments all working together. And we know that with Richard, loyalty runs deep and it runs both ways. So tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with Ambassador Holbrooke, his wife Kati, their family, who are here with us as well.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP

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