Today, Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed along with three others in a rocket attack outside the American Consulate in Benghazi. Ambassador Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979, when Adolph Dubs, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was gunned down in a kidnapping attempt. Supposedly, the attacks were perpetrated by protesters apparently angry over a film they say insults Prophet Muhammad. However, U.S. officials believe that the attack may have been planned by a group that had either been waiting for an opportunity to exploit like the protests over the video or perhaps even generated the protests as a cover for their attack.
Within a short time, Diana and I started getting emails and texts from friends and family (not my family, though - thanks a lot guys!) worried about the security situation here in Nigeria and our safety. As we've seen over the past few years, protests can quickly turn into violent riots which can topple even the most seemingly stable regimes. Unfortunately, in this case, the riot resulted in the death of four men who had been trying to do nothing more than make the world a little better . . . in a peaceful, diplomatic way.
Diana and I have both been asked why we chose this job, this lifestyle, and, most definitely, this location. We received this question so often because when people make life choices that are perceived as out of our ordinary, the natural thing to do is to try to understand. I usually opt for questioning their sanity. While I did not request to be assigned to Nigeria, I did choose to accept the assignment. And Diana chose to support me. My guess is a lot of people have questioned our sanity – especially mine. I won't speak for Diana (she can answer the question of "Why?" herself - and much better than I can), but I will say that my very long and boring answer is summed up very succinctly in one of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I have always believed that, regardless of our religious affiliations, our political leanings, our ethnic or national ties, we each have opportunities in life to be engaged in work that will help to improve society. Some of us are called to affect dramatic, widespread improvements. Others may only bring to pass seemingly small changes within our small circles of influence. I am definitely of the latter group. So, while I may not be the harbinger of all that is good to the masses of the earth, I can plant and cultivate the seeds of goodness wherever I am. We all have our unique way of doing this. The only question is, are we going to step into the area and try.
So, while today we mourn the loss of four men, we do so knowing that they died while striving valiantly in a worthy cause.