Remembering Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski

In 2012, I had the honor of chatting briefly with Zbigniew Brzezinski at the Polish Embassy in Washington D.C., where he gave an inspiring speech about a childhood encounter in his native Poland with Jan Karski, who had just been awarded posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Brzezinski himself had received the Medal in 1981 in recognition for his work as a superb statesman and diplomat who, as National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, played a major role in the normalization of U.S. relations with China, the expansion of America’s role in the Middle East that produced an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, and skillful involvement in the 1980 Solidarity movement against Communist rule in Poland. He is also the author of some 30 books and countless articles that secured his position as one of the nation’s top foreign policy advisors.

In announcing the news of her father’s May 26 death on Instagram, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said, “My father passed away peacefully tonight. He was known to his friends as Zbig, to his grandchildren as Chief and to his wife as the enduring love of her life. I just knew him as the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have. I love you Dad❤️ #HailToTheChief.”

My brief encounter with this accomplished man, who never let his tongue-twisting Polish name stand in his way, left me awed by his command of the English language, which was not his first language, and his analytical abilities. Brzezinski recently served as a senior research professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was a dignified and imposing man who did not suffer fools gladly; his political assessments were swift and understated. In a March 17 interview with Rachel Martin on National Public Radio, Brzezinski said of the Trump administration, “I think the United States is currently a kind of wonderland with the president speaking on subjects of his choice, some of which are entertaining, but none of which are very strategically substantive.”

For a more personal view of the man, read “Zbigniew Brzezinski: An active, impatient man who evolved a steady, long-term view” by James Fallows in the May 27 Atlantic.
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