Caixin OnlineOpinionCommentaries A Remembrance of Richard Holbrooke
12.20.2010 18:54

A Remembrance of Richard Holbrooke

The harder the challenge, the more it seemed to provoke his fierce determination to find a solution
By Orville Schell

While sitting in Istanbul's Attaturk International Airport waiting for a flight, I was stunned to hear a BBC announcer report that my colleague and friend U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had just died. I knew that, after collapsing during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department in Washington, D.C., he had been rushed to George Washington University Hospital with a torn aorta. But, despite the seriousness of his condition, it was still unimaginable that he would not prevail and recover. After all, had "Holbrooke," as his friends and colleagues always referred to him, not always prevailed? Had there ever been a challenge too daunting for him?

He was not only a physically tall and imposing man, but he came bathed in the glow of a larger-than-life aura of tough invincibility. Indeed, he seemed to have an almost autonomic response mechanism that enabled him to galvanize to confront problems. It was with this same can-do attitude that he approached diplomacy. The harder the challenge, the more it seemed to provoke his fierce determination to find a solution. It was hard to imagine him ever responding, "Well, I just don't think we can succeed here."

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