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  Remarks by Senator George J. Mitchell, ICG Chairman Emeritus, at the ICG Award Dinner, New York, October 9 2003

Tribute to Mort Abramowitz

For most human beings, life is in essence a never-ending search for respect.  First, self-respect, then the respect of others.

There are many roads to respect, none more certain or meaningful than service to others.

Mort Abramowitz has lived such a life:  full, meaningful, with deep impact on people in this country and the world over.  Mort is joined this evening by his wife Sheppie, his son Michael, his daughter Rachel and Michael’s wife Susan.  Please join me in acknowledging their presence.

Time does not permit a full recitation of his many accomplishments.  Most are well known:  his years of public service as a diplomat, including distinguished tenures as Ambassador to Turkey and Thailand; his leadership of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace; and his central rule in the creation of the International Crisis Group, for which we honor him this evening.

To be effective a leader must possess the wisdom to know what is right, the courage to say what is right, and the strength to do what is right.

Mort possesses these qualities.  And more:  He has a passion, a burning drive to right the many wrongs that all of us see but from which most people turn away.  Mort has never turned away.  We teach tolerance as a virtue, which it is.  But what I most admire about Mort is his intolerance of injustice, of oppression, of the absence of opportunity and hope.

People of conviction and courage make enduring friends and formidable adversaries.  From long personal experience I can tell you that Mort is an enduring friend and a very formidable adversary.

Fortunately for us, and for people all across the world, Mort and a few others, especially George Soros who we also honor tonight, saw the need for an organization like the International Crisis Group.  They had a vision and they transformed that vision into reality.  That took years of determination and effort.  Many others participated in that effort, many here this evening.  But I think all would acknowledge the central role that Mort and George played.

For that we honor and thank them this evening.

It’s been just 8 years since ICG was created, and it has grown rapidly and had a profound impact.  That so many of you are here is testimony to that growth and impact.

Mort, I’m proud to be your friend and honored to take part in this tribute.  However, knowing you as I do, I suspect that all of the congratulations, glowing words and resounding applause are, to you, mostly embarrassing and discomforting.

So I will conclude with a few words that I hope will have meaning for you.

Across the face of the earth, from Turkey to Thailand, from Kosovo to Kilimanjaro, there are thousands of people who don’t know who you are, who never have and never will hear your name spoken, but who, because of you will lead better, more full, more meaningful lives.  And there are millions more who lead war ravaged lives of poverty and despair who just may have a better chance.  In their behalf I thank you.  May God bless you and Sheppie.  No one could be more deserving of our respect.


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