Michael Shuman, Co-author of Citizen Diplomats
Jan. 9, 1992
Dear Friends and Family of Gale,
I very much wish I could be with you all today to join you in honoring and remembering Gale. But urgencies have arisen at the Institute for Policy Studies, where I work, that make travel impossible
I knew Gale in a variety of ways: as an organizer at Stanford while I was a law student and a disarmament activist; as a co-author on what was the first book for both of us, Citizen Diplomats; as an adviser for her various Soviet-American exchange projects; and as one of the many friends who tried to bring her support and hope this last, most difficult year of her life. I’ve never known a finer human being, filled with more warmth, intelligence, energy, and passion – and her loss, our loss, is really the world’s loss.
But my feelings about Gale go beyond grief. Several weeks before she died, we had a long telephone conversation about life and death. She was remarkably upbeat, and her aliveness in the face of cancer reminded me of her power to inspire, to energize, to remake the world. I told her about something David Brower said shortly after the death of Ansel Adams, one of the greatest photographers of our time: “Ansel may be no longer with us,” David said, “but at least we still have his eyes.” And I told Gale that even if she can no longer be with us physically, at least we will have her mind and her heart. How wonderful it is and how privileged we are to have so much of Gale in her books, essays, journals, letters, and articles.
Gale responded by excitedly talking about several new book projects she had in mind – and that she expected my help in publishing them, even if it had to be posthumously. The conversation then stimulated another book idea in me, and we made vows to help each other complete our projects. Now I regard those vows as sacred.
With Gale, I understood the full meaning of collaboration. When we worked together on Citizen Diplomats, which really amounted to a half-dozen two-to-three week sessions, we would work nonstop for 15 hours a day. We brainstormed together, ate together, even brushed our teeth together. We pushed ideas back and forth, we edited each other, we even enraged each other – but in the end, I think we recognized just how much we learned from each other and how much better a book we were able to produce together than if we had worked apart.
Several days before she died, Gale said that she wanted to become an “activist angel.” She would have been pleased to know, I think, that after Cynthia Lazaroff* called to tell me that Gale had died, and after we had spent a half hour grieving together, Cynthia and I suddenly realized that both of us had started to work on Cuban-American relations and that there were many ways we could help one another. Even in death, Gale was bringing people together, solving global problems.
I always wished Gale and David lived closer, but Boston remained 3000 miles from San Francisco and 500 miles from Washington, D.C. Even if we had lived in the same city, it might not have made much of a difference. We were “fellow travelers,” in every sense. While she was interviewing the new leaders of Vilnius, Moscow, and Leningrad, I was working in Amsterdam, Managua, and Belo Horizonte. Yet no matter how far we journeyed, we always managed to check in by telephone, or letter, or in a last-minute breakfast at least once or twice a year. I was always struck by the ways in which we kept moving in parallel, reinforcing directions.
On the many lonely nights, I would spend in a foreign hotel room or in front of my IBM PC, it was always strangely comforting to know that someplace, somewhere, Gale, David and the wide circle of friends that worked with them were thrusting themselves so much into their work on behalf of humanity.
I will miss the letters, the periodic calls, and the few but precious times we could push each other to dream about a better world and do our own small part to make that world come true. But I will also feel some comfort in knowing that Gale is reaching from the heavens and keeping her warm, angelic hand on all of our shoulders.
As you gather this weekend, I’ll no doubt feel the usual pangs of loneliness that come with working on a Saturday and a Sunday. But if anyone could understand, it would have been Gale.
Scarsdale, New York
Editor’s Note: Cynthia Lazaroff was featured in Citizen Diplomats.