President Obama described Richard Holbrooke as a man full of life, confident in himself and curious about others. Speaking today at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the president said Holbrooke lived an “extraordinary” life and that his five decades of work in the U.S. foreign service made a difference. Holbrooke bore the burden to ensure other’s survival and success, and for that he should be honored, Obama said.
“It is fitting that this memorial would take place at the Kennedy Center, named for the president who called Richard’s generation to serve. It’s also fitting that this memorial takes place at a time when our nation has recently received a tragic reminder that we must never take our public servants for granted. We must always honor their work.”
The president recalled an answer Holbrooke gave to an interviewer back in 1999 when asked at the height of the crisis in Kosovo why the U.S. was involved. Said the president, “The answer was simple. Because we could make a difference. Because we could make a difference. That is the story of American leadership in the world and that is also the story of Richard Holbrooke.”
Obama reflected on Holbrooke’s career and all the world events he was a part of. “It’s no coincidence that his life story so closely parallel with the major events of his time. The list of places he served and the things he did reads as a product of American foreign policy,” said Obama.
The president today directed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to establish an annual award to the nation’s top diplomats in honor of Holbrook. It will bear his name.