Tuesday, October 18, 2005

# Posted 6:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IN MEMORIAM: PENN KEMBLE. I first met Penn almost two years ago while conducting research for my doctoral dissertation. In order to develop a better understanding of US-Central American relations in the Reagan era, I sought to interview those who were closely involved the policymaking process.

Certainly, Penn had more important things to do with his time than give interviews to graduate students. Yet he was always generous with his time. Less than twelve months ago, after Penn had already begun his struggle against brain cancer, he suggested that I conduct my follow-up interview over dinner at his home in Georgetown.

Over a home-cooked meal, Penn spent more than an hour passionately recounting the battles of old, even though his surgery was so recent that the scars on his head were still visible. It was that kind of living passion that nourished my interest in a facet of American politics and diplomacy that has few students left today, in spite of its historic importance.

For a more detailed account of Penn's life and accomplishments, I strongly recommend reading the obituaries published by the Washington Times and the New York Sun. Although one might infer from the names of those papers that Penn was an arch-conservative, he was, in fact, a life-long Democrat appointed to high offices by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Yet Penn never hesitated to challenge his party and support the other when he believed that it the GOP was doing more to promote democracy across the globe.

Thus, Penn always led an uncomfortable existence in the center, preferring principle to partisanship. It is a position with which I can certainly empathize. But more importantly, Penn's tremendous success in life suggests that one may achieve the most by staying true to oneself.

I wish all the comfort in the world to his wife, Marie-Louise, in her time of loss.
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