“Jon, just a heads up. Henry may not be able to make Paris next week, so we might have to change things around a bit for you”. That was the call I got a month ago. I couldn’t believe it. Henry Kissinger not there? Unthinkable. But why was I in any way surprised? He was 100 years old after all, and wasn’t going to go on for ever.
There is a discreet, private conference that I have been involved with for the past dozen or so years. The cast list attending is invariably sparkling. The CEOs of the world’s biggest companies, the innovators who are going to shape the next century, and Henry – who was the walking, talking encyclopaedia of the last umpteen decades.
I mean, when he was born in 1923 the ink was still drying on the Treaty of Versailles (well more or less); he was born into Weimar Germany – the Bavarian accent was one he would never lose. He fled the Nazis and ended up in America. An academic who rose to high office – the very embodiment of the American dream. And as America’s top diplomat to Nixon and Gerald Ford, and advisor to ten other presidents (a little over a quarter of the total in the history of the country) when he spoke, you listened.
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