I’ve been really messed up today. For months, a friend of mine was battling cancer and I got word of his passing this morning. He was an important thought-leader in the Washington national security community. He was also a role model for a new generation of Washington technocrats (including me) and was taken from this world far too soon.
We were kindred spirits when it came to policy and politics, and I owe so much of my career opportunities after the Pentagon to him. When I was looking for a think tank to transition to from the Pentagon after finishing my PhD, he sat me down and explained to me how it would all work and what would be expected. He lobbied for me to find a home at the Center for a New American Security and gave me a pathway to turn a one-year fellowship into a long-term research gig. He celebrated my first research grant when nobody else seemed to notice. He coached me in how to give testimony before Congress, which is a secret milestone in Beltway punditry. And I suspect he had a hand in my being offered that opportunity in the first place. He gave me insights about the capriciousness of becoming a future political appointee when I thought that was something I would want to do. And he was the last person I had coffee with in Washington before moving away.
I owe this man, even though I’m sure others incurred deeper debts than I did. I loved this man, even though I wasn’t as close to him as so many others in Washington. I feel a kind of pit-of-my-stomach grief at the injustice of his passing that makes me unable to fathom how people even closer to him are coping. I’m as angry as I am sad.
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