Ambassador Andrew Young, the public servant, businessman, global statesman and civil rights legend that served as the top lieutenant to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my wife, his son Andrew "Bo" Young, III, who co-chairs our Southeast Regional Board for Operation HOPE, and I spent some invaluable quality time together during in the period leading up to "A Day of HOPE" recently in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 12th. A precious time filled with incredible stories of history, as it happened during the civil rights movement and during his time at the United Nations, …and lessons for living.
One story I recall in particular he shared during his "conversation" with former President Jimmy Carter at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, with whom he had served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations, really struck a nerve with me — and spoke to both Andrew Young’s common touch, and his intellectual brilliance in the same breath. It all started when he was in elementary school as a child in Louisiana…
He grew up surrounded by a cultural and ethnic smorgasbord, and if he was going to get to school on any given day, or even survive, he had to learn how to deal with a complete range of interesting people who lived on all four corners. And so, Andrew Young really became "Ambassador Andrew Young" at a very young age. This in turn came in handy when he served as the key right hand to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because it fell to Young to serve as the arbitrator and peace maker between the strong personalities that made up the movement. I was also told — by someone other than Young — that he often would move Dr. King out of the way as blows landed from Klan members and others, preferring to take them himself! Wow… what a man.
Ambassador Young told me on several occasions that while others resented being "second fiddle" to King, so to speak, he found it to be his greatest honor in life; and has greatly contributed to his success in business and corporate life, where the process and skills around fair and balanced evolution is more important than the skills around revolution. Anyway, back to the central story…
When Young was our Ambassador to the United Nations for President Carter he was told that no one could get along with the Chinese. He found this difficult to understand, and so he struck up a conversation…only to find out that people had gone out of their way to insult them, offering to take them out for "Chinese food," as an example, versus genuinely trying to get to know them, and respect them. And so he and his wife chatted with the Chinese delegation, only to find out that what they REALLY wanted…. was a real Southern meal! Of course, the Young’s were happy to oblige.
Ambassador Young, then staying at the American Ambassador’s residence at the Waldoff in New York, rang up his mother who came up, promptly commandeered the Ambassador’s kitchen ("I’ll take the stove and this counter, you all can have all the rest…") and whipped the meanest combination of Southern delicacies you could imagine — featuring fried chicken, of course!
Well, the Chinese loved this food, and ended up sitting on the floor and talking — IN ENGLISH (they had also been told that the Chinese spoke no English!), until after 1am in the morning. It was a great beginning to a long-standing and cooperative relationship, all brokered over some Southern fried chicken, whipped up by his 90 year old mother! The Waldoff Hotel has I am sure not known the likes of those heavenly smells in its kitcken before….or sense!
So effective was Ambassador Young with the Chinese that during his entire tenure as our Ambassador to the world, not only did he never get a Chinese veto on the floor of the UN, he even got them to effectively CENSURE THEMSELVES! This was tied to a resolution tied to an aggression with which the Chinese were involved, and they agreed to allow the resolution go forward as long as all parties involved, including themselves, were censured.
Now THAT’s diplomacy my friends!
P.S. Ambassador Young also noted that during his tenure, and President Carter’s term in office, "America never killed anyone, and never got anyone (of its own soldiers in combat) killed." Not bad Mr. Ambassador. Not bad.
Onward, with HOPE