The following is the eulogy delivered by Henry Kissinger at a memorial service on Friday at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington for Sweden's prime minister, Olof Palme.
Olof Palme and I were friends. And often we found ourselves on opposite sides of issues. I mention our disagreements because I do not want to burden Olof Palme's memory with unnecessary controversies. I stress my personal feelings because they elevated my life.
The anguish and passions of the Vietnam period prevented a meeting with Olof Palme for most of the years we both held public office. Finally in 1976 Palme invited me to visit Sweden. We had a long private dinner; a more official meeting the next morning. It was clear immediately that Palme was an extraordinary personality. So many leaders are interesting primarily because of the power they wield. Palme was significant apart from his official function. His knowledge, his subtlety and his commitment answered the perennial question whether an individual can make a difference. A small, neutral country geographically at the periphery of events achieved an influence commensurate with the moral and intellectual dimension of its prime minister far beyond the traditional calculations of power.
Shortly after that first meeting, Palme and I left office within months of each other. Strangely in view of what had gone before we maintained an increasingly frequent and close contact. Neither of us ever visited the other's country without meeting for extended conversations. I do not presume to speak for Palme, but my own thinking, I felt, was not complete without the benefit of Palme's insight, perspective and devotion.
In the end, transcending all controversies, Palme's passion was for the best in Western value. Wherever peace was threatened or justice was denied or freedom was in jeopardy -- in the Middle East, in Central America, in South Africa, on the issue of nuclear weapons -- Palme was to be found at the cutting edge of the debate. Though he often carried placards he was never content with slogans. He strove tenaciously to find solutions to world problems -- many far distant from his own country -- always intelligently, never yielding to the counsels of tactical prudence. For his passion was concentrated on making the free peoples worthy of the values they avowed. It is the measure of his integrity that not even his severest critics challenged the aspiration of this Swedish leader to act as a universal conscience. Pragmatists might consider him a romantic for believing unreservedly in man's perfectibility. But then every great achievement was a dream before it became a reality; cathedrals are not brought into being by skeptics.
Olof Palme -- once one knew him -- was a gentle, caring and thoughtful friend. When I was in the hospital after surgery he interrupted his mediation of the Iran-Iraq war to call from some airport or other for a long and sensitive conversation. On the occasion of my attendance at a private conference in Sweden, some local groups used my chairmanship of the Bipartisan Commission on Central America to organize a large demonstration in front of the hotel. Palme -- once again prime minister -- took me ostentatiously to lunch at a public restaurant at the same time -- characteristically without security -- though his personal sympathies were hardly on the side of the policies being attacked, to put it mildly.
As the years went, by I came to think of Olof Palme more and more as a sentinel in the ramparts of freedom warning, cajoling, holding aloft a standard which contributed crucially to dialectic by which liberty and human dignity achieve their meaning. One could debate Olof Palme's answers; it was not possible to ignore his questions.
So for all whose lives Olof Palme touched, the world has become a far lonelier place. It has been a privilege to be Olof Palme's contemporary. It has been an honor to know Olof Palme as a man.