I hazard the guess that for most American Foreign Service personnel one of the most interesting aspects of their careers, especially when looking back in retirement as I am now, would be their personal encounters with notable world figures. Assignments abroad provide a myriad of opportunities at least to see or maybe meet famous people. Diplomacy as a profession often enough brings a practitioner of whatever rank into at least incidental contact with high dignitaries or other notables. To illustrate the point, there follows a brief roundup of some of my personal encounters of that sort over the years. Following that segment, the persistent reader will find an account of a specific instance of interaction with an impressive individual back nearly a half century ago. Be assured I remember well that latter encounter to this day.
Exalted people this observer has glimpsed in passing:
* Charles De Gaulle, being chauffeur-driven down a Paris street not long before his return to power in 1958.
* President John F. Kennedy, arriving for a press conference at the Department of State.
* Ousted short-term President Janio Quadros of Brazil in 1962 at a vacation resort near Santos, where the military had just banished him that day.
* In Washington, former president Harry S. Truman in the distance at a Democratic Party dinner.
* Sitting in on a rather large policy conference in State that included Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
* On a lot more personal contact level, drinks and conversation late one night with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker in a Kathmandu hotel bar.
There were also the more formal occasions. In 1974, my wife and I, togged out in formal wear, represented our embassy in London at Queen Elizabeth II's birthday celebration on the Buckingham Palace grounds. Her Highness and the entire family, including Prince Philip and Lord Mountbatten, were all there, not fifty feet away on the rear lawn.
Some few years later, in Egypt, I had the interesting duty frequently of accompanying as note taker my ambassador, Hermann Eilts, and various visiting Congressmen in their frequent calls on President Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian president and I got to be nodding acquaintances in those, the last years of his life. Also in Egypt, on a couple of occasions I shook the hand of President Jimmy Carter, as did other formal greeters, upon his arrival at the Cairo airport during his shuttle diplomacy days. Once I attended a formal dinner in Cairo with...