Comments at Celebration for Professor John Lewis
November 2, 2017
Dr. Gloria Duffy
Hello, Friends and Colleagues. I’m Gloria Duffy, President of the Commonwealth Club of California, and I am honored to be included in this celebration of John Lewis’ life and work.
John had a way of thinking about you, about how to connect you with others in a way that made new things happen, and that got things done well beyond the academic environment. Usually one had no idea that one was figuring in John’s thoughts and ideas.
This subtle and often surprising guidance had a major impact on a number of people’s lives and work, including mine especially in the 1980s. I should say that John’s impact for me was inextricably linked with my friend and colleague Chip Blacker, through whom I met John. Chip and I were undergrads together at Occidental College and have collaborated on a number of projects for more than 40 years.
After college, I went straight into a Ph.D. program in political science at Columbia University. I took a heavy course load for 3 semesters, while working for Zbigniew Brzezinski as his research assistant and then for Gordon Adams in the same role. I spent a summer interning in Washington, D.C., completed my master’s degree, and by the end of 1976 I was anxious to begin contributing in the arms control field, given the dangers of the Cold War arms race. I left Columbia and went to work at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, had offers from several agencies in Washington to work there, then took a job in Washington at the Arms Control Association as editor of the magazine Arms Control Today.
In 1978 or 1979, Chip Blacker and I had visited in Washington. He told me about the Arms Control Program at Stanford where he had recently taken a job and told me that if I ever wanted to leave Washington to let him know and to think about the possibility of coming to Stanford.
In December of 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and I knew that it would not be possible to make progress in arms control with the Soviet Union for some time to come. So I decided to leave Washington, for the time being.
In early 1980, I contacted Chip and with his encouragement applied to become a fellow at the Arms Control Program. This was a way for me to catch my breath and write my Ph.D. dissertation that I had not yet written for Columbia, and to assist in various ways at the Arms Control Program such as lecturing in the team-taught arms control course, writing and editing.
I arrived in the fall of 1980, becoming one of the four “fellowettes” about whom Condi spoke last night. In fact, Condi and I became housemates, sharing a house we rented from Doug Murray, who is also here today.
Once here, I experienced John’s benevolent “invisible hand,” to borrow a phrase from Adam Smith, on several occasions. I found that once John learned about you, he remembered your interests and capabilities and found ways to channel them to useful purposes. I should add, in my case it was unclear where Chip’s invisible hand stopped and John’s began.
The first time I was aware of the invisible hand at work, I got a call from a woman named Lynne Joiner, whom some of you know. She was another of John’s students from Cornell. Lynne is a journalist and at the time she had a radio program on KQED called “Foreign Exchange.” It was a weekly interview program about foreign affairs, rather rare at the time for a region outside of Washington or New York City.
I was a guest numerous times on Lynne’s program, as I would guess many of you were. John had remembered that I was interested in public education about international issues, and connected Lynne with me. Lynne became a life-long friend, and she worked with us on a video project later when I started a research institute.
The next project John drew me into was the second edition of the arms control textbook. When Chip took a leave of absence to work for Senator Gary Hart in Washington, John and Chip asked if I would take on this project, which Chip had planned to do. John recalled that I had been the editor of Arms Control Today, connecting that to the writing and editing that needed to be done for the textbook.
John was very supportive with the project. When I had difficulty getting one faculty member to complete his chapters and it was holding up the book, John made a phone call to the individual to urge him to finish his work.
Bill Perry was here earlier today and spoke of how in 1981 John showed him a room at Galvez House and informed him that this would be his office. Prior to Bill arriving, John called together a few of us younger scholars at Galvez house, told us who Bill Perry was and that he would be joining the Arms Control Program. John told us that Bill would be needing some “junior partners” to work with him on projects. I wasn’t
sure what a “junior partner” was in this context, but it sounded interesting, and I was pleased to work with Bill on some projects back then including a couple of conferences and conference reports. And then I had the honor of working for Bill in the 1990s in the Pentagon. It was through John Lewis that I first met Bill Perry.
The fourth connection John made for me was the most important of all, in terms of my career path, since it propelled me onwards from my original time at CISAC. One day in late 1981, I was in my office at Galvez House, and John came down the hall. He said that he had some people in his office who were starting a foundation and he wanted me to come down and talk with them.
I joined him, and among his guests were Susan Clark (then Susan Silk), head of the Columbia Foundation, headed by Madeleine Haas Russell, a member of the family that owned and ran Levi Strauss. The Columbia Foundation had funded John’s work for some time. Susan was accompanied by Sally Lilienthal, a San Francisco philanthropist, whom she had brought to meet John.
They explained that Sally was starting a foundation to fund projects on arms control and security issues, and they asked me a number of questions. I was not entirely clear about what they were doing, but it was an interesting and exciting conversation.
The next thing I knew, I received a call from Sally Lilienthal asking to meet with me privately, which I did. And shortly after I met with her, I received a call inviting me to become the first Executive Director of the foundation, which was quite surprising to me. Always up for an adventure, I took the job. This all happened very fast, and it was all due to John Lewis’ dedication to connecting people and his insight about how people might work together.
Ploughshares has supported lots of great work, funding an experiment in its early days by the Natural Resources Defense Council showing that remote verification could work for arms control agreements. It is still very active after all these years, and today the Executive Director is Phil Yun, who spoke earlier today. I’ve served on both its board and advisory board over a period of many years, including with David Holloway as a fellow board member.
John’s tireless efforts to connect people and impel them forward to break new ground, in my case together with Chip Blacker’s role in my life and career, led me to many other collaborations. Gail, you will recall our work with Alex Dallin and the national security advisors to the presidents of the Caucasus countries, and there have been so many other instances.
We live in a dangerous world, with many threats to our security. North Korea’s nuclear program, relations with Russia and so many other challenges face us.
In dealing with these challenges, there are natural constituencies, for example, for military strength through the defense sector and for scientific progress through scientific research. There is no natural constituency for arms control, non-proliferation and conflict resolution. Problems of international security are multi-disciplinary and often affect multiple countries and regions, which necessitates work across the boundaries of fields, and through connecting experts in different fields. John was so insightful at seeing who could collaborate for good purposes, and a master at making those connections across fields of expertise and national boundaries.
John was a very unique individual, a Great Connector. We were lucky to have him, as he guided us to roles through which we could make contributions to a safer world.