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 11:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT