California Son: The offstage life of Chris Stephens

At the memorial held at San Francisco City Hall, October 2012. Photograph by Justin Sullivan. Courtesy Getty Images.

Editor’s note: This is an insightful and well-written tribute to Chris Stephens from a friend and college classmate of his.  Stephens, born in Grass Valley, was an American diplomat and lawyer who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya from June 2012 to September 12, 2012. He was killed when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by Islamic militants on September 11–12, 2012. Stephens is buried in Grass Valley. Thanks to Steve Frisch for bringing this article to my attention on his Facebook page. Some excerpts and a link to the full are here:

“We had known each other for much of our lives,” writes Alison Powell in Boom: A Journal of California.  “Our families had been friends even longer than that.

“Chris’s father, Jan Stevens, introduced my mother and father to each other in Berkeley, California, in 1956. They’d all gone to Cal together—my mother and father, Jan and Chris’s mother, Mary. Jan Stevens was my father’s fraternity brother. Mary was a member of my mother’s sorority. Jan had known my mother since she was seventeen, and they were freshmen together on The Daily Cal. In the eighties, Chris and I were at Cal together, wrapped in our own Greek affiliations, our lives bounded then by Telegraph and Piedmont Avenues.

“According to Chris’s father, Chris was a romantic about California. ‘Mushy,’ Jan says, and he is right. It’s easy to go down that road in the Golden State.

“In public, Hillary Clinton referred to Chris’s ‘California cool.’  Depictions of Ambassador Chris in shorts and flip-flops bolstered the chill image of him that Secretary of State Clinton brought to the bureaucratic stage. Chris can’t be parted from California in fact or imagination, and yet so much of Chris’s life took place at a far remove from California, and in seemingly so many places at once that over time it felt as if he lived nowhere at all.

“Like the almond blossoms, we go away to come back. We return and return, if only in our memories, and in returning we may possess. But it is not enough simply to possess the past. There is work to be done, and Chris would not want us to slip backward, retreating from the challenge of living.”

The full article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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