Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO David Abshire introduces Don Beyer and his wife Megan to guests at a party given at his Old Town residence in August of 2009. Beyer had been just been sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Joining Ambassadors Abshire and Beyer on the porch were U.S. Sen. John Warner, SCAN founder David Cleary, former Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb, Don and Megan Beyer, Linda Robb and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran.
Photo by Louise Krafft.
For a career spent around the world, David Abshire always considered Alexandria home. Abshire was a former ambassador to NATO, a cofounder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and president of the Center for Study of the Presidency and Congress until 2012. Abshire’s life of service ended Oct. 31 when he died at his home in Alexandria.
Even in his final days, Abshire took an active leadership role in Washington. In a final opinion piece titled “Last Call to Greatness,” published in Real Clear Politics, Abshire gave some parting advice to his readers.
“Set aside your own rivalries,” wrote Abshire. “engage the very best people from within your organizations and beyond, and chart a course together that puts America back on the path to greatness — before it’s too late.”
Former U.S. Sen. John Warner had known Abshire for 40 years, when Warner was Secretary of the Navy and Abshire was assistant Secretary of State. They worked together in strategic planning of Navy missiles and later collaborated when Warner served in the Armed Services Committee and Abshire was ambassador to NATO.
“He was a very bright man, always was looking at the present of a situation and the future consequences,” said Warner. “He was born to lead, and he led.”
These traits were vital when Warner and Abshire both worked on the Iraq Study group in the George W. Bush administration.
“There was an Abshire method: It didn’t matter how difficult a problem might be, he was always an optimist,” said Max Angerholzer, president and CEO of Center for Study of the Presidency. “At a time where Washington seemed to irreparably broken, and civility was a lost art, where compromise became a dirty word, Dave [Abshire] was able to remind folks that we’ve faced much more difficult times … He made a career of taking on these tough challenges.”
James Kitfield, a senior fellow at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Abshire always looked for the opportunity for good in a crisis.
“He’d been ill for quite some time, and even through the very end he had an optimistic vision, and wanted to gather thought leaders,” said Kitfield. “He never gave up.”
One of Abshire’s favorite sayings was from Mark Twain: that history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes. According to Angerholzer, Abshire’s goal was to find good lessons, good rhymes, from history and pass those on to future leaders.
At his home in Alexandria, Abshire’s family hosted foreign dignitaries and the local community alike.
“No matter who you were,” said Angerholzer, “Dave was proud to be your friend and wanted to help you in any way he could.
Abshire was 88 years old and is survived by his wife of 57 years, Carolyn Sample Abshire, their five children, and 11 grandchildren.