The Commonwealth Blog

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

Dec 16, 2011 @ 9:45 AM by jzipperer

Writer and polemicist Christopher Hitchens passed away today following a fight with cancer. He was 62.

The former leftist turned ... well, what? Right-wing, in some ways. Libertarian? Neo-conservative? People can debate his political journey for years, and being a cause for never-ending debate would probably please Hitchens, who reveled in verbal and written combat. He was one of the most provocative and intellectually brave people on the scene of American politics, which after all was an adopted scene for the UK-born writer. Never afraid of a political scrap, Hitchens angered and pleased his audiences.

But that reputation for combatitiveness was not reflected in his personality. At the Club, we got to have many interactions with him, because he was a repeat presence on our stage. "In my 10 years at the Club, he is by far one of my favorite speakers," said Kara Iwahashi, The Commonwealth Club's associate program director who heads up the organization's Silicon Valley operations. "He was charming, lived life to the fullest, and – despite what many people might think – extremely down to earth. When he was visiting his family in Palo Alto, he called personally, not through any assistant, to accept our invitation to speak at the Club. And despite his busy schedule – he was leaving after our program to travel to Europe to do research for his memoir – he spent time talking to our members after the program and thanking them for coming. The world has lost a great individual." 

Hitchens had been scheduled for a return engagement at the Club in July 2010, but only a couple days before the program, he canceled and announced that he had been diagnosed with the cancer, which would finally take his life this week.

You can listen to the audio of Hitchens' July 9, 2009, event at The Commonwealth Club, when he was discussing his then-new book, God Is not Great