Skip to main content

Chris Stevens' father: Carry on his good work

By Jan Stevens, Special to CNN
updated 2:27 PM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Ambassador Chris Stevens, pictured in August in Tripoli, Libya, died in a September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, pictured in August in Tripoli, Libya, died in a September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Stevens' father writes that his son knew the risks of his job
  • He says the ambassador worked to build bridges between Americans and Libyans
  • Father: Son would not have wanted to be seen as a victim nor to have his death politicized
  • Stevens' family vows to continue his work in promoting peace, understanding

Editor's note: Jan Stevens is the father of Ambassador Chris Stevens and writes these comments on behalf of his family.

(CNN) -- Chris Stevens died in the service of his country. He died doing what he loved most -- working to build bridges of understanding and mutual respect between the people of the United States and the people of the Middle East and North Africa.

He was loved by many more Libyans than those who hated him for being an American. A few dozen fanatics penetrated his compound. More than 30,000 people in Benghazi demonstrated in protest over his death.

Chris was successful because he embodied the traits that have always endeared America to the world -- a commitment to democratic principles, and respect for others, regardless of race, religion or culture. Chris regarded and liked each person he met as an individual. He respected their views, whether or not he agreed.

One of his friends told us a tale that reflects his success on a small scale. Picnicking in the Libyan countryside, they met a local family. Chris immediately greeted them and suggested that they be photographed together. The young son of the patriarch of the family, suspicious and negative toward Americans, refused to participate. So Chris continued chatting with the others. When it was time to leave, the initially suspicious son presented Chris with a bouquet of flowers. "This is because you were so respectful to my father," he said.

Chris was not willing to be the kind of diplomat who would strut around in fortified compounds. He amazed and impressed the Libyans by walking the streets with the lightest of escorts, sitting in sidewalk cafes, chatting with passers-by. There was a risk to being accessible. He knew it, and he accepted it.

What Chris never would have accepted was the idea that his death would be used for political purposes. There were security shortcomings, no doubt. Both internal and outside investigations have identified and publicly disclosed them. Steps are being taken to prevent their reoccurrence.

Chris would not have wanted to be remembered as a victim. Chris knew, and accepted, that he was working under dangerous circumstances. He did so -- just as so many of our diplomatic and development professionals do every day -- because he believed the work was vitally important. He would have wanted the critical work he was doing to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect -- the kind of work that made him literally thousands of friends and admirers across the broader Middle East -- to continue.

So rather than engage in endless recriminations, his family is working to continue building the bridges he so successfully began.

Through the J. Christopher Stevens Fund, and thanks to the tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, including a generous contribution from the government of Libya, the family of Christopher Stevens is working to support programs that build bridges between the people of the United States and the broader Middle East.

This fall, together with a coalition of public and private partners, the family will launch a Virtual Exchange Initiative that will fuel the largest ever increase in people-to-people exchanges between the United States and the broader Middle East. We are working with the Peace Corps to expand its reach into schools and communities across this country. The family will support university fellowships for promising students interested in foreign relations and the Middle East, and looks forward to a symposium on "The Arab Spring and the Future of U.S. Diplomacy" planned in Chris' honor by the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. 

We have received letters from thousands of people all over the world who were touched by his example.

His openness touched a chord in their hearts. He would have wanted to be remembered for that.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Jan Stevens.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT