This is the Henry Kissinger that I knew and will remember

Even up until his final moments, world leaders would seek Henry Kissinger’s counsel. His legacy may be complex, but his deep knowledge of the 20th century was simply unrivalled. His death is a huge loss, writes Jon Sopel

Saturday 02 December 2023 07:00 GMT
<p>Henry Kissinger speaking in Washington in 2019 </p>

Henry Kissinger speaking in Washington in 2019

“Jon, just a heads up. Henry may not be able to make Paris next week, so we might have to change things around a bit for you.” That was the call I got a month ago. I couldn’t believe it. Henry, not there? Unthinkable. But why was I in any way surprised? He was 100 years old after all, and he wasn’t going to go on for ever.

There is a discreet, private conference that I have been involved with for the past dozen or so years. The cast list attending is invariably sparkling. The CEOs of the world’s biggest companies, the innovators who are going to shape the next century, and Henry Kissinger – who was the walking, talking encyclopedia of the last umpteen decades.

I mean, when he was born in 1923 the ink was still drying on the Treaty of Versailles (well, more or less); he was born into Weimar Germany – the Bavarian accent was one he would never lose. He fled the Nazis and ended up in America. An academic who rose to high office – the very embodiment of the American dream. And as America’s top diplomat to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and adviser to 10 other presidents (a little over a quarter of the total in the history of the country) when he spoke, you listened.

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