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Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Tribute

Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Tribute
(Center for Strategic and International Studies)

By Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:27 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The following were remarks I gave at a special memorial service held in honor of Arnaud de Borchgrave on March 9, 2015, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Arnaud passed away on Feb. 15, 2015.

What drives a person to give practically his whole life for his country? I never asked that question to Arnaud de Borchgrave.

I first met Arnaud when I was a young man in my early 20s. I was visiting my sister in Palm Beach one winter, and I noticed an ad in the Palm Beach Post announcing a public forum to hear the famed editor Arnaud de Borchgrave.

I remember arriving to a local auditorium. The place was packed. Before Arnaud spoke, the local high school marching band came out on stage in full regalia, music blaring.

I thought to myself, Are journalists usually announced by marching bands? Well, I soon discovered Arnaud was no normal journalist.

After I started in my own journalism career, our paths would cross, and Arnaud soon became a friend and mentor. When I founded Newsmax, which started from very small beginnings, Arnaud quickly volunteered his name to help, and he became a founding board member.

When I moved from New York to West Palm in the late 1990s, I had the good fortune to see Arnaud and his wife Alexandra during their frequent trips to Florida.

It was always special. Upon their arriving in town, we’d typically meet at Taboo, Palm Beach’s very own version of Rick’s Café American.

There Arnaud would hold court, drinking his traditional bull shot. One time, he asked how I discovered him and Alexandra sitting in a dark corner. “Easy,” I said. “I Just asked the maitre d where I could find a beautiful young lady sitting with her grandfather.”

Arnaud loved it. He had a self-deprecating sense of humor for sure, but he also came up with some great lines.

Looking back, I think humor was an anesthetic for Arnaud. He had witnessed great suffering during the long sweep of his life. He fled Nazi occupied Belgium, and much of his family was wiped out in the Holocaust. He arrived in England, lied about his age, and at 16, joined the Royal Navy. On D-Day he was wounded on Juno Beach.

He saw the carnage on those beaches, and more terrible things in 16 wars he covered as a journalist, including Vietnam when he was with a Marine battalion that was ambushed at Hill 400 near the Demilitarized Zone. He was wounded by a mortar, but many other Marines were not lucky enough to escape death that day.

Arnaud was undaunted and relentless and always a truth seeker. During his career he continually said things that did not make people happy — when he reported on the unfolding U.S. disaster in Vietnam or the failure to grasp the Soviet threat or the limits of U.S. policy after invading Iraq.

He never aimed his remarks for Republicans or Democrats, he just told it as he saw it.

Arnaud represented something missing today in our policy debates. A vision of the world not based on rigid ideological thinking, but on wide open lenses that capture the world as it is.

Still this question keeps coming back to me: What kind of person would spend his whole life to benefit his countrymen?

It was 1999 and Arnaud was 72 years of age. There he was in Belgrade, head of UPI, blindfolded and being bounced around in cars and safe houses to get his exclusive interview with Milosevic.

Or we can remember in his early 80s Arnaud opening up the first door to Gadhafi for a new relationship with the U.S. Or again in his 80s, going out daily for 20-mile practice hikes to prepare for his trek though the Pakistani mountains to meet Mullah Omar.

Thankfully, his legacy of truth telling will not end. Tom Sanderson, his protégé at CSIS will carry the torch admirably. And so will his beloved Alexandra and her Light of Healing Hope Foundation, which Arnaud was so proud of.

I recall one of our last long, liquid lunches at Taboo. The question of faith came up. We had never talked about religion much. Arnaud asked me if I believed in God.
I told him I did, and strongly. He seemed quite surprised.

He told me he didn’t believe in God and even less in religion. He shared some negative personal experiences he had. So I asked him what he did believe in. “Well, I believe in the big bang,” he said. “What do you mean, the big bang?” I asked.

“You know, 20 billion years ago the big bang happened, and we’re here today,” he said. A philosophical discussion followed. I won’t bore you with the details.

Suffice it to say, that after this conversation I would frequently end our visits together by saying, “Arnaud, may the big bang bless you.”

Whether Arnaud actually believed in God or the big bang is probably not so important. Because he did believe in what God is, love. Love is the guiding power of the universe, and we saw it in his love for Alexandra, for his country, for us.

I never really needed to ask Arnaud what drove him. The answer was always there. The love he felt, that sustained him, that he shared with us.

So Arnaud I have one last message for you: I have no doubt that when you finally met the big bang he had a marching band there for you.

And it still plays, my friend.

To read our article commemorating his life, Click Here Now.

Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc. Read more Christopher Ruddy Insider articles —
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The following were remarks I gave at a special memorial service held in honor of Arnaud de Borchgrave on March 9, 2015, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Arnaud passed away on Feb. 15, 2015.
de borchgrave, journalist, csis, upi
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 12:27 PM
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