Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks at the Memorial Service for Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger in Arlington, Virginia, on June 21, 2011. Secretary Clinton said, "...I last saw Larry a month ago. He came to the State Department to join in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Operations Center, which truly is the nerve center of the State Department."
Secretary Clinton continued,"...I think in the years since Larry Eagleburger was Secretary, this town and many of us have become much more edited. So it was quite a treat for me to be sitting where I was sitting, looking at the faces of all of these young men and women turning to each other and saying, 'Did he really say that?'
"He shared a story that encapsulated a great deal of what made him so special. He told all these young Foreign Service officers that one of his earliest jobs in the Foreign Service was with INR, the intelligence bureau, and his beat was Cuba. One morning in 1961, he came to work early and discovered that something big had happened in Cuba overnight, what we now know was the start of the Bay of Pigs invasion. And Larry thought it was his job to try to report on what was happening insofar as he could figure it out.
"So he collected up all the facts available and he wrote up his analysis. Someone, he wrote, was trying to overthrow the Castro government and they were going to fail. A few hours later, he discovered he was supporting the invasion, senior officials of the United States Government, and he discovered how they felt about his analysis. He was summoned to the White House, and for several hours he was chewed out by one big shot after another.
"Now, Larry was, in his own words, a junior, junior, junior officer, and plenty of people in those circumstances would have softened or moderated or even reversed their position, but not Larry. He just kept explaining his point of view repeatedly, never backing down. And eventually he was issued a warning never to cross paths with the Kennedy Administration again. And he was sent back to the State Department bloody, but unbowed.
"That was Larry then, and that was Larry a month ago in the State Department, unimpressed by all of the pomp and circumstance, unafraid to put forth an unpopular opinion if he was convinced he was right. And often, as with the Bay of Pigs and on many other occasions, he was right. Listening to Secretary Eagleburger tell stories at the State Department last month was not only a treat for the young Foreign Service officers, but for all the rest of us. It was thrilling to hear him, and it meant so much to those young men and women. And just watching them hang on his every word was worth it to me. Because to them, Larry was kind of a demigod, although I'm sure he would take issue with the prefix -- the only FSO ever to serve as Secretary.
"It takes a special commitment to join the Foreign Service, a willingness to live and work in far-off places, to learn languages like Serbo-Croatian, and it's a commitment not only by officers, but by their families. And I'm very grateful to Larry's family for their support during his long service to our country. He served in difficult places, including the former Yugoslavia, he served in tumultuous times, and he constantly raised the bar for everyone else. Through it all, he served with integrity. He was devoted to the State Department and believed that his devotion meant being honest, both about its strengths and its weaknesses. And he pushed everyone -- his staff, his superiors, the entire bureaucracy -- to be better, more effective and more strategic."
She continued, "...I also heard stories that day about his kindness to everyone who worked around him. Once at the end of a long day of official travel in Vienna, he stopped to chat with the people staffing the control room, which was his custom. He told some jokes, he made conversation, and then he headed off for bed. And as he left, a young woman turned to Larry's staff and said, 'When they sent me over here, they said I would never see anyone important, but that was the Deputy Secretary of State.'
"He knew those small gestures of friendship meant the world to FSOs and civil servants because he'd been there. He didn't parachute in from somewhere else; he worked his way up to all the positions that we have now described him as holding. And he knew that the work that people like those of us who have had the privilege of speaking today do can only succeed because of the talents of those around us who are doing the constant backup work and the support that makes it possible for the rest of us to make that speech, to attend that negotiation, to go to that conference. And so for this and all other reasons, he was the pride of the State Department."
In closing, Secretary Clinton said, "...Fifty years from now, many of us will no longer be here, but at the State Department, I am confident people will still be telling stories about Lawrence Eagleburger -- the Foreign Service officer who rose all the way to the seventh floor as Secretary of State, the diplomat who helped presidents and secretaries and America lead through times of crisis, the man who traveled with briefcases full of cartons of cigarettes, who always made time to talk with the junior officers. His time as Secretary was brief, but his service was long, and his impact will endure."
You can view the Secretary's complete remarks here.