My favorite Secretaries of State

My favorite was Lawrence Eagleburger and not only because he was born in Milwaukee and went to UWSP, like me. He was just smart and I admire that. I recall when he came to Norway. He had only a very small staff with him, not the big retinues we see today. We prepared the usual talking points. He told me something like, “I don’t need these things: I am the one who makes them up.” And he did. He handled all the questions as effortlessly as most of us would talk about our favorite colors.

They say the world is more complicated now and that this kind of lean simplicity is no longer possible. I disagree. The world was plenty complicated back then too. Complex, really, which is even harder. But guys like Eagleburger could absorb that complexity and come up with simple explanations. You don’t meet many people like that. My former Ambassador Tom Shannon had that skill, which is why it was so good to work with him. Something to strive for, I suppose, but not achieve. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.

I am reading a good book about FDR called, “the Mantle of Command.” I have read several FDR bios. He had a fascinating leadership style. He was not a great intellect, they said, but he had a great temperament and the talent to work through and with others, even working well with those who opposed him passionately. And he was comfortable with ambiguity. I am not sure why I went on this tangent, but I will leave it on anyway.

If I rank order the Secretaries of State I worked for, Eagleberger, Schultz and Powell are in a first class of their own.  I will not be undiplomatic enough to continue to the low performers, suffice it to say that if I talked to a group of colleagues, I think we could come to a consensus about those top three I mentioned above and the bottom three, which I will not put into print.

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