Remembering the man behind the diplomat
02:27 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: Chris Stevens was a "beautifully even-tempered person," his stepfather says

Diplomat was "best of the best," longtime friend says

He was a hands-on diplomat, CNN reporter says

Stevens died in an attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday

CNN  — 

Chris Stevens knew what he was getting into.

He knew, longtime friend Daniel Seidemann said, that Libya was a place of great promise, but also one of great peril.

“When he went to Libya, he had no illusions about where he was going,” Seidemann said. “He has probably done more than anybody on the planet to help the Libyan people, and he know going in that this was not going to protect him.”

U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens died Tuesday in an assault on the American Consulate in Benghazi, the very city where he had arrived aboard a cargo ship in the spring of 2011 to help build ties between the upstart rebellion and the rebels.

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“He risked his life to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

“The world needs more Chris Stevenses,” Clinton said.

Stevens graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982, then took a pause in his studies to join the Peace Corps, according to his State Department biography.

“Growing up in California, I didn’t know much about the Arab world,” he said in a State Department video prepared to introduce him to the Libyan people after his appointment as ambassador in May.

“I worked as an English teacher in a town in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco for two years, and quickly grew to love this part of the world,” he said.

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After returning to the United States, he attended the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, graduating in 1989, according to his biography.

He worked as an international trade lawyer in Washington before joining the Foreign Service, the career diplomatic corps, in 1991, according to the State Department biography.

He spent most of his career in the Middle East and North Africa, including postings to Israel, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, in addition to serving as the deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Libya from 2007 to 2009, during the rule of Moammar Gadhafi, according to the State Department.