A remarkable woman has written a book on a remarkable man who lived an extraordinary life. Tonight I went to hear Samantha Power speak at Politics and Prose on her new book Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World. Samantha Power, who is a senior advisor for Barack Obama, currently teaches at the Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. I am a big fan.
Sergio Vieira de Mello was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights when he was sent to Iraq as the UN special representative in the aftermath of the American invasion in 2003. On August 19, 2003 he died after a truck bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad. With his death the world lost an extraordinary diplomat, a humanitarian and a man who spent over three decades working to resolve conflicts all around the world, from Bangladesh to Bosnia, from Sudan to Lebanon, from Kosovo to Iraq, and many other conflicts. Sergio began his career in Bangladesh, helping distribute food and resettle returning refugees as a new nation emerged from the ashes of a united Pakistan. He went on to become one of the most widely respected diplomats in world. At the time of his death he was on the short list to become the next UN Secretary General.
A biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello is also the story of the major world crises in the last three decades. Its a story of delicate peacemaking, false steps, dealing with ethnic struggles, negotiating with dictators and bringing hope to refugees and those in need. I have been waiting for this book for a long time. I am thrilled that Samantha Power has brought the story of this fascinating life to a wider audience.