Democracy Dies in Darkness

Letters to the Editor | Opinion

The remarkable Princeton Lyman

September 7, 2018 at 5:35 PM

Princeton Lyman testifies at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sudan on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Diplomat helped shift S. Africa from apartheid,” the moving Aug. 26 obituary of Princeton Lyman, a former diplomat of great accomplishment and influence, omitted at least one telling detail. As a member of Tifereth Israel Congregation, Lyman volunteered in the synagogue’s tutoring program, in which congregants tutor students who attend the nearby D.C. public school, Shepherd Elementary

Every Sunday afternoon for several years, Lyman would spend an hour with a second-, third- or fourth-grade student, who undoubtedly did not know that she was working on reading comprehension and math skills with the man who helped end apartheid in South Africa, among other global accomplishments.

It is a mark of a great man who can make contributions to society on a global scale and also, by contributing to education in his own city, one child at a time.

Daniel Nathan, Washington

The obituary of Princeton Lyman was limited in what could be said of this fine American son of modest Jewish Lithuanian immigrants. Lyman shrewdly predicted, in his 20s and decades ahead of his time, that South Korea would become an economic powerhouse and a democracy that would be an example to the whole of Asia.

Lyman also taught me, when we worked together at a Washington think tank on a multilateral project involving the George W. Bush and Al Gore foreign policy election campaign teams, how to maneuver around the bureaucracies not just of the State Department, Pentagon and White House but also of the United Nations and global agencies to get positive things done and overcome obstacles. Lyman was a master at that. His polite, smart, congenial cunning was a delight to see. He was a truly great American.

His everyday courtesy and interest in everyone from secretaries and janitors to homeless people he met on the street were touching and sincere. He loved people and treated everyone the same way. He was a real gentleman.

Michael H.C. McDowell, Chestertown, Md.

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