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Secretaries of state, politicians remember George Shultz at memorial service

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“Everything I love about America, I found in our friend, George Shultz,” said General James Mattis during his speech at former Secretary of State George Shultz’s memorial service at Memorial Church on Thursday afternoon. Mattis joined a host of other University and national dignitaries in recognizing Shultz and his extensive accomplishments.

Shultz, a distinguished former fellow at the Hoover Institution and former professor emeritus at the Graduate School of Business, served under Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and played a critical role in ushering in the end of the Cold War. He died in February at the age of 100. 

The memorial service, hosted by the Shultz family, featured prominent speakers such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice, James Baker and Henry Kissinger.

Remembrance speeches ranged from moments of respect for the selfless, accomplished life that Shultz lived to appreciation of the improvements and life lessons he bestowed on the Stanford community. 

“No words said here today will ever capture George’s 100 years here on earth,” Rice said. “He was the consummate public servant, serving our country with dignity and skill.” 

Rice described Shultz’s immense achievements during his time in national government and military service, but she spent the majority of her time highlighting his contributions to the organization that became a large part of his life: Stanford’s Hoover Institution. 

“George and Stanford University, it was a terrific match,” Rice said.

Shultz joined the Stanford community in 1968 after graduating from Princeton University in 1942 and obtaining a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949. He was a steady and prominent mentor for fellow Stanford faculty and students, even during his brief hiatuses during which he served in Presidential cabinets, according to Rice. Shultz was also a fervent fan of Stanford Athletics, particularly the University’s football and basketball teams, Rice added. 

Rice recalled Shultz’s ceaseless dedication to nuclear disarmament, environmental sustainability, energy policy and defending the values of democracy. His actions and stories always inspired younger people, because “he loved and respected them,” she said.

While most of the remembrances focused on Shultz’s legacy, those who knew him well shared light-hearted memories of their favorite moments with him. Kissinger recalled making a pact with Shultz to speak at each others’ memorial services some years ago.

“I’m not sure how George will carry out his end of the bargain,” Kissinger said, sparking laughter from the attendees.

Kissinger, along with many other speakers, spotlighted the integrity, devotion and wisdom that characterized Shultz during his time working at Washington D.C. and Stanford University. He viewed Shultz as an active problem solver — one who would always seek out solutions rather than dwell on the problems at hand.

“If I could pick a president of the United States, I would choose George Shultz,” Kissinger said.

Secretary Shultz's family, including his wife Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, children, grandchildren, gave readings from scripture at his memorial service at Memorial Church.
Secretary Shultz’s family, including his wife Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, children, grandchildren, gave readings from scripture at his memorial service at Memorial Church. (Photo courtesy of Drew Alitzer)

Blinken, though not on the program for the memorial, offered his remembrance near the end of the service. Though Blinken never worked with Shultz, he said he lives and works in a world that Shultz shaped. 

“He went out of his way to show the building he recognized their hard work,” Blinken said. “All the way down to the thank you notes to local staff that he insisted on signing before he left a foreign country, so they could be handed over the moment he was wheels up.”

Blinken also recalled a test that Shultz often gave to each new ambassador before they flew to their new post: Shultz would call them into his office and ask them to point to their country on his globe. When the new ambassador would wave their finger around looking for wherever they were headed, Shultzwould move their finger to the United States and remind them, “This is your country.” To Blinken, this story epitomized Shultz’s love for his country and how his leadership helped better those around him. 

“He was a teacher. And many of us here today, in one way or another, were his students. Still are,” Blinken said.

After the service, invited guests gathered outside of Memorial Church for a reception, complete with food and beverages circling on trays and live music from the 1st Marine Division Band.

Outside the church’s doors, California Governor Gavin Newsom took photos with members of the Stanford Chamber Chorale, and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer spoke with friends. University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell embraced Charlotte Shultz, George’s widow, and other Shultz family members. California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and other notable figures also attended.

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Vol. 260 Academics Desk Editor
Tom Quach '24 serves as the Academics Desk Editor for Vol. 260 and previously covered startups for The Daily's SciTech section. Tom also serves as Account Manager for The Daily's Marketing Team. He's from San Francisco, CA, and enjoys biking, building LEGOs and watching Stars Wars on his spare time. Contact him at tquach 'at' stanforddaily.com.
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Nikolas Liepins ’25 is a photojournalist and writer with The Stanford Daily. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.