In memoriam: Mark Palmer.

Author:Kursch, Donald
Position:In memoriam

Mark Palmer, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 1986-1990 during that country's transition from Communism to democracy, died in Washington DC on January 28, 2013, after a long struggle with cancer. He was 71 years old.

From his undergraduate days, during a 26-year career in the Foreign Service from 1964-1990, and throughout a post Foreign Service career as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Mark was always an energetic, outspoken and effective advocate for democracy and human dignity. As a student, he was the head of Yale's chapter the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizing and participating as a "freedom rider" to promote civil rights for African Americans in the American South. Following initial Foreign Service assignments in New Delhi and Moscow, Mark's creativity and penchant for action led to a position in the Department's Policy Planning Council where he served as a primary speechwriter for Secretary Kissinger. From here he advanced quickly, serving as Political Counselor in Belgrade and then returning to Washington where Mark again put his speechwriting talent to use, most notably as the co-drafter of President Reagan's historic 1982 Westminster speech to the British Parliament. This speech led, among other things, to the realization of another of Mark's ideas, the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, of which he was a co-founder and became long serving board member.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1983-1986, Mark became Secretary George Shultz's point person for developing and executing initiatives to deal with the Soviets and their client states. While a fierce opponent of Communism, he consistently sought opportunities to reach out to the Communist half of Europe, particularly through cultural and trade initiatives and exchange programs. Though forward progress of this new "differentiation" approach was generally incremental, his combination of creativity and persistence proved to be effective and won him the respect of Secretary Shultz who noted Mark's exceptional ability to "bounce back" from setbacks and find innovative ways to move forward again. With Gorbachev's ascension to power in 1985 opportunities in East-West relationships expanded significantly and Mark found himself in the midst of this process, playing a leading role in the planning for the first Reagan-Gorbachev summit, held in Geneva in November of that year. Mark's...

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