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Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens to be Honored at the Upcoming 2012 Common Ground Awards

2012 October 5

J. Christopher Stevens, Ambassador

“Relationships between governments are important, but relationships between people are the real foundation of mutual understanding” – J. Christopher Stevens

J. Christopher Stevens was well-known not only for his kindness and intelligence but his willingness to embrace the cultures surrounding him. As the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, he was often seen in the streets of Tripoli conversing with Libyans as his security detail stayed well back, allowing him to nurture a sense of accessibility among ordinary citizens during a tumultuous period in Libya’s history. Until his death in the attack on the Benghazi Consulate on September 11, 2012, he had spent his life bridging divides and cultivating understanding between the United States and the Middle East.

Born in Northern California in 1960, Chris graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982. Afterwards, he joined the Peace Corps, spending two years in Morocco where he learned Arabic and French, languages that would serve him well in his tenure in Libya. He joined the Foreign Service in 1991, beginning a diplomatic career spanning two decades. He served in Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo, and Riyadh before returning to Washington, where he held a multitude of positions in the State Department.

From 2007 to 2009, Chris was the Chief of Mission in Libya. In 2011, during the Libyan Revolution, he began serving as a Special Representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council, after arriving in Benghazi on a Greek cargo ship as battle raged all around. In May, 2012, Chris was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Libya, a position he held until his death.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns considered him one of “the very finest officers of his generation in the Foreign Service.”  Ghaith al-Omari, a former adviser to the Palestinian Authority who met Chris while he was stationed in Jerusalem, described him as “a diplomat who had texture.”

Chris believed the best way to overcome prejudice was to interact directly with different cultures; to acknowledge differences and celebrate diversity. Efforts by Libyans to save his life and the demonstrations by Libyans denouncing the attack that took his life signified the impact of his diplomatic approach.

His willingness to transcend cultural barriers in order to better perform his duties as a representative of the United States has set a new standard for cultural diplomacy and peacebuilding. His family has produced an online memorial,, to promote the values of communication and understanding to which he dedicated his life.


The Common Ground Awards will be presented at the Carnegie Institution for Science on November 8, 2012 at 8:00pm in Washington, DC. The Awards are presented annually by Search for Common Ground to honor outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community and peace building.   Recipients have made significant contributions toward bridging divides between people, finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and providing inspiration and hope where often there was none. Past recipients of the Award include: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali, Sesame Workshop, and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

“In a world where adversarial behavior is so prevalent, we honor people who build bridges and resolve conflict” said John Marks, President and Founder of Search for Common Ground.  “These are our heroes, and it feels wonderful to celebrate them.”

Other 2012 Common Ground Awardees

Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Respected TV, radio, and print journalist who integrated the University of Georgia as one of its first two African-American students; author of recently published “To The Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil rights Movement.”

Ingoma Nshya (“New Era”)

Rwanda’s only female Hutu and Tutsi drumming troupe and the subject of the new documentary film Sweet Dreams.

The Interfaith Award:

Lord George Carey of Clifton, Former Archbishop of Canterbury; Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, Founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), and Imam of Masjid al-Farah in New York City; and Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee,

Peace Child International

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Peace Child International empowers young people to be the change they want to see in the world, by encouraging youth to become informed and then take action.

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