Chances of a Lifetime: A Memoir

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9780684830247: Chances of a Lifetime: A Memoir

An engaging autobiography chronicles how Christopher left a private law firm to heed the call to public service, choosing to face new challenges as diverse as advising a president on whether to dispatch troops to investigating a major city's police force gone bad. 50,000 first printing.

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Review:

There are no earthshaking surprises in this memoir by Warren Christopher, the first secretary of state in the Clinton administration. No revelations, for example, about what Syrian strongman Hafez Assad really said to him behind closed doors. Yet it is an engaging account of how a boy born in rural South Dakota came to occupy the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Before rising to secretary of state in 1993, Christopher served at high levels under Presidents Johnson and Carter. Along the way, he earned a reputation for buttoned-down decorum. Clinton once called him "the only man ever to eat presidential M&M's on Air Force One with a knife and fork." Christopher doesn't reveal much about his personal life on the pages, but he does impart lessons learned from a life in public office: "Silence, once associated with discretion, begets confidence as well as confidences. I learned that people also tend to read wisdom from silence--even when silence means only that you know nothing about what they are talking about."

Christopher was involved in many important events during his career, from race riots in the 1960s (when he was a Department of Justice official) to the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and1980 (when he did his first stint at State). About this latter episode, he writes: "Never before nor since has any foreign policy problem engaged me so intensively for so long. One of the most interesting sections of Chances of a Lifetime describes the extraordinary security measures Christopher learned to live with when he became secretary of state. He couldn't visit a friend's house without it undergoing a sweep several hours beforehand. Dinner at a restaurant involved reserving an extra table for a pair of agents who would do nothing but drink iced tea and watch for trouble. For a morning jog in Israel, "agents arranged for me to run at sunrise inside a deserted soccer stadium." Christopher came under intense scrutiny, too. He relates, for instance, the minor flap over choosing to edit a speech in which he referred to American Chinese relations as a "cooperation" rather than a "partnership."

Regrettably, the book does not include much discussion of Christopher's role in Democratic politics since leaving the Clinton administration; among other things, he led Al Gore's effort to challenge the Florida vote count in 2000. Yet Chances of a Lifetime is full of crisp and straightforward prose about an important public figure; it's required reading for foreign-policy aficionados, and anybody else interested in Washington's ladder of success. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Warren Christopher became U.S. secretary of state in 1993. During his four years of service, he logged more miles than any other secretary of state for a comparable period. He had been a law clerk to Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas, a chairman of the Los Angeles law firm O'Melveny and Myers, U.S. deputy attorney general (1967-1969), and U.S. deputy secretary of state (1977-1981). He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other awards and honorary degrees, and is now the senior partner at O'Melveny and Myers in Los Angeles, California, where he lives.

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Christopher, Warren
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Book Description Scribner, New York, 2001. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. FIRST PRINTING of the First Edition. The memoirs of the former American Secretary of State under US President Bill Clinton, discussing his early life and his career as a lawyer, his entry into public service, the various officials and presidents he has served, his recruitment by President Clinton to his cabinet, his various foreign policy actions: leading negotiations to free hostages in Iran, brokering peace in the Middle East, involvement in despatching federal troops to press for civil rights, much more. Hardcover with dust jacket, contains illustrations, bibliography, indexed, 320pp. A very nice copy. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 00013376

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