There are few in this world with the character and integrity and giant heart of Rich Williamson. He left this world night before last, after complications from a cerebral hemorrhage. There are many who will miss him. His wife Jane, his children, his colleagues, and to be sure advocates for human rights – especially in Sudan.
Josh Rogin has an excellent piece in The Daily Beast. The Sun Times does too. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum released a moving statement, as did the Chicago Council. Rich worked for three US Presidents. He attended Princeton and the University of Virginia’s law school. I shall leave it to others to list and detail his many contributions to governance and policy.
I will remember him for being a friend and mentor. He always made time to help with writing and editing and helping to guide a statement. He was a great collaborator. He was generous with his time. He was generous with his wisdom. He was a teacher and a true believer. He was practical. He was a realist and an idealist. He was always rushing to get home. He loved his wife and family and his life with them. He was exceedingly kind, and gave great advice to my seventeen year old daughter about learning, inspiration, and being true to self. His actions saved lives in Darfur, and his policy prescriptions would save even more lives if President Obama and his successors implement them. He was a Republican, and the kind of partisan that this world needs. He understood the nature and necessity for what is known as the Responsibility to Protect. He believed eradicating poverty was a moral challenge for us all, and in our individual ability to do just that. He believed in humanity’s capacity for goodness. He was the very definition and embodiment of a good man.
There seems only one who understands the depth of loss, W. H. Auden. His Funeral Blues has been ringing through my ears since I heard the news yesterday morning:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Requiescat en pace, Ambassador. We will miss you, Rich. Every day.