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Ambassador Chris Stevens remembered as Obama, Romney debate Libya

October 17, 2012 |  8:10 am

As President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney sparred over Libya in Tuesday night's debate, friends and family of slain Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens set aside politics and gathered to remember the 52-year-old diplomat.

The ceremony, hosted by his family at San Francisco's City Hall rotunda, recalled the personal side of Stevens, who has been lauded for his efforts abroad as a skilled linguist and friend to the Libyan people.

His younger brother, Tom Stevens, recalled a time when he was 5 and the future ambassador -- already skilled in matters of persuasion -- convinced him to strip naked, don a ski mask and "streak through the neighbors' family room while they were all watching TV."

There were the stealth assignments he gave his youngest sister — now Hilary Stevens Koziol — to stick carrots up Tom's nose while he was sleeping.

And UC Berkeley fraternity brother Steve MacDonald shared a tale of an uncharacteristically irate Stevens who, fed up with loud late-night neighbors, doused them with a fire extinguisher. Stevens then failed to correct his targets when they came charging after MacDonald instead.

"That was a failed diplomatic effort on his part," MacDonald dead-panned to a crowd of hundreds that included friends, neighbors, dignitaries and admirers.

But time and again the tales centered on traits that seemed to make up the primary colors of Stevens' character: intelligence, humility and an optimistic curiosity about the world and its inhabitants.

"He believed in the value of every person's story," said younger sister Anne Stevens Sullivan, noting if the pair got into a department store elevator, Stevens would be chatting up a fellow rider by the time they got out.

Tuesday's event was billed as a celebration of Stevens' life. The death of Stevens set off election-season finger-pointing over security at the consulate. But here on his home turf, politics took a back seat.

Addressing those gathered were Libyan Ambassador to the U.S. Ali Aujali and retired diplomat Thomas Pickering, appointed by the State Department to investigate whether missteps in Washington contributed to the slayings of Stevens and three other Americans by extremists Sept. 11.

Aujali on Tuesday called Stevens a hero who would never be forgotten for his support of the Libyan revolution.

"You sent us one of your best diplomats," he said. "We are sorry we could not protect this diplomat when he came to help us."

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-- Lee Romney in San Francisco

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