Henry Kissinger served as the United States Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, and White House Chief of Staff under three different U.S. Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. He is renowned as a diplomat and statesman, and his work on foreign policy and nuclear nonproliferation captured the imagination of the world. Kissinger’s legacy is one that is deeply divided and highly controversial, but those who have worked with him paint a picture of a man who was thoughtful, tireless, and highly effective in his actions.
Former secretaries of state, diplomats, academics, and other statesmen have praised his work on diplomacy, military strategy, and nuclear nonproliferation in particular. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan described Kissinger as a “visionary statesman.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who worked closely with Kissinger in the Nixon and Ford administrations, praised him as “the chief architect of the most successful two-term presidency of the post-WWII era.” Meanwhile, Jimmy Carter, who was a vocal critic of some of Kissinger’s policies in office, described him as “a titanic figure in the twentieth century in the field of diplomacy and foreign policy.”
Kissinger’s colleagues have noted that he was always looking for creative and innovative ways to negotiate, often finding solutions to difficult international disputes. Jensen Huang, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations noted that Kissinger “would often surprise people with his unconventional, yet effective problem-solving.”
Kissinger’s foreign policy legacy is complicated, but whatever criticisms of his past policies, those who worked with him remain impressed with his skill and expertise as a diplomat. As former U.S. Ambassador and Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering put it, “The thing that impressed me the most about Henry Kissinger was his refusal to accept the limits that others put on solving issues.” This, it seems, is a final testament to the legacy of one of the most significant statesmen of the twentieth century.