'An Extraordinary Life': Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Dead at 100
Share This article
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died Wednesday at the age of 100.
His consulting firm said he died at his home in Connecticut.
A towering figure of diplomacy who will always be remembered for his thick glasses and deep, gravelly voice, Kissinger forged U.S. foreign policy during critical moments in American history ranging from from relations with China to the Vietnam War.
His family fled Nazi Germany as Jewish refugees in the 1930s when he was a teenager. He later became a U.S. citizen while serving in military intelligence in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he attended Harvard and received his Ph.D. in 1954. He remained on the Harvard faculty for 15 years with appointments in the Government Department and the Center for International Affairs.
Kissinger served first as a national security adviser and later as secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but his influence continued long after he left office. He was a practitioner of realpolitik — using diplomacy to achieve practical objectives rather than advance lofty ideals. Supporters said his pragmatic bent served U.S. interests; critics saw a Machiavellian approach that ran counter to democratic ideals.
He ranged across the breadth of major foreign policy issues. He conducted the first "shuttle diplomacy" in the quest for Middle East peace. He used secret channels to pursue ties between the United States and China, ending decades of isolation and mutual hostility.
Kissinger initiated the Paris negotiations that ultimately provided a face-saving means — a "decent interval," he called it — to get the U.S. out of a costly war in Vietnam. Two years later, Saigon fell to the communists.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating a cease-fire in Vietnam in 1973.
He pursued a policy of detente with the Soviet Union that led to arms control agreements and raised the possibility that the tensions of the Cold War and its nuclear threat did not have to last forever.
In his later years, Kissinger cultivated the reputation of a respected statesman, giving speeches, offering advice to Republicans and Democrats alike, and managing a global consulting business. He turned up in President Donald Trump's White House on multiple occasions.
At age 99, he was still out on tour for his book on leadership. Asked in a July 2022 interview with ABC whether he wished he could take back any of his decisions, Kissinger demurred, saying: "I've been thinking about these problems all my life. It's my hobby as well as my occupation. And so the recommendations I made were the best of which I was then capable."
As Kissinger turned 100 in May 2023, his son David wrote in The Washington Post that his father's centenary "might have an air of inevitability for anyone familiar with his force of character and love of historical symbolism. Not only has he outlived most of his peers, eminent detractors, and students, but he has also remained indefatigably active throughout his 90s."
He traveled to China this past summer and met with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in September.
Tributes for Kissinger from prominent U.S. officials poured in immediately upon word of his death. Former President George W. Bush said the U.S. "lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs" and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Kissinger was "endlessly generous with the wisdom gained over the course of an extraordinary life."
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid tribute to Kissinger on the social media platform X Thursday, writing:
"Henry Kissinger was a model of service and a great American. From the day he came to the United States as a teenager fleeing Nazi Germany, Dr. Kissinger dedicated his life to serving this great country and keeping America safe.
He left an indelible mark on America's history and the world. I will always be grateful for his gracious advice and help during my own time as Secretary. Always supportive and always informed, his wisdom made me better and more prepared after every one of our conversations.
Susan and I are praying for his family."
Henry Kissinger was a model of service and a great American.— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) November 30, 2023
From the day he came to the United States as a teenager fleeing Nazi Germany, Dr. Kissinger dedicated his life to serving this great country and keeping America safe.
He left an indelible mark on America's history… pic.twitter.com/nfm4PPvyHp
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in the Bavarian city of Fuerth on May 27, 1923, the son of a schoolteacher. After his family left Nazi Germany and settled in Manhattan, Heinz changed his name to Henry.
Kissinger had two children, Elizabeth and David, from his first marriage to Ann Fleischer whom he married in 1949. They divorced in 1969. He is survived by his wife Nancy whom he married in 1974.
Share This article