Honoring a Legacy: Ambassador Robert S. Strauss, 1918-2014
Mar 20, 2014 | Brumley Fellows
It is with heavy hearts that we convey the news that Ambassador Robert S. Strauss has passed away.
Bob Strauss was an innovator and leader in his field, but more importantly, he was a remarkable man. He touched the lives of many and led a life guided by wisdom, insight, kindness, and integrity. In both his personal and professional life, he exemplified the model of giving back to one’s community and garnered a deep level of respect from everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. After serving as a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, his students could attest to his commitment to public service and influencing positive change in the world. Outside of the classroom, he made extraordinary contributions as both a public servant and a private businessman. His passion for solving challenging global issues has served as an inspiration that we at the Strauss Center will continue to cherish and attempt to live up to for years to come.
Without him, the hopes for founding a Center that made innovations in global policy scholarship and cultivated international leaders would not have been realized.
Over the course of his remarkable career, Ambassador Strauss became one of America’s most trusted and influential figures. While it is impossible to do justice to his accomplishments and personal character in such a short space, we hope to highlight some of the extraordinary moments in his career. Among some of his outstanding accomplishments are serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, serving as President Jimmy Carter’s personal representative to the Middle East peace negotiations, and helping to guide America’s policy on Russia during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. He served as the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and played an integral role in transforming a long-standing rivalry into a relationship characterized by a greater level of cooperation. Speaking to his exceptional character and dedication to his work, Ambassador Strauss was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas as well as the former Lloyd Bentsen Chair at the LBJ School.
Ambassador Strauss leaves a particularly strong imprint on his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Among other things, he was the inspiration for and generous supporter of the research center there that bears his name: The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.
The University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. noted: “Ambassador Strauss was one of the most influential figures on the world stage of the past half-century. His stature and successes were rooted in Texas, and he has been vital in UT Austin’s growth as a global research university. As a Distinguished Alumnus, thought leader, and philanthropist, he supported and elevated programs across the university. And our Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law has brought together the best minds in academia, government, and the private sector to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The UT family will miss Bob greatly, but his legacy will serve our students, our nation, and our world for generations to come.”
Jim Langdon, a fellow University of Texas alum who was Ambassador Strauss’ partner at their law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and who played an integral role in founding the Strauss Center, said: “Bob Strauss was an American original and he was my friend, my partner, and my mentor for the last 40 years. He was a statesman and a political figure who spanned the decades. He had friends across the political spectrum at home and abroad, and he believed in the art of compromise. While he lived most of his professional life in Washington D.C., his heart and soul were firmly rooted in Texas and his beloved University of Texas. Whether the task at hand was the Middle East or the work of an Ambassador or dealing with the Congress or advising a President, one could always see those Texas roots at work. He took great pride in the establishment of the Robert S. Strauss Center at the University of Texas, but more than pride, like everything else he did in life, he has bestowed on this Center a high level of expectations. This state and this nation will miss Bob Strauss.”
Bobby Chesney, the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and professor of law at the University of Texas, noted “A giant in American life has passed from the scene, and we are all the poorer for it. Ambassador Strauss embodied profoundly important—and profoundly American—virtues. He had a burning desire to serve the greater good, and in doing so to elevate pragmatic solutions over the temptations of partisan advantage. And he did it all with humor and grace, leaving us with an extraordinary and timely example we would do well to emulate. Our thoughts and prayers—and deepest appreciation—go out to him, and to his family.”
Frank Gavin, formerly the Director of the Robert Strauss Center and currently the Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security Policy studies and Professor of Political Science at MIT, added: “Ambassador Strauss leaves an extraordinary legacy, to the University of Texas, his home state, the nation, and the world. He stood for something that is all too rare in our modern world: rising above ideology and partisanship, working with people from all sides of a debate to find the best solutions to our nation and our world’s most pressing challenges. He was wise, generous, and funny, and no one told a better story. He was an American original who will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by the many people whose lives he touched.”
Ambassador Robert Hutchings, Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, also noted: “From his position as the Democratic National Committee Chairman to his role as the first U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation after the breakup of the USSR, our dear friend Robert Strauss has left his indelible mark on how we approach domestic and international policy as a country. Through his vision, bipartisanship and philanthropy, Strauss exemplified the highest ideals of public service and his legacy will live on in the Strauss Center and the many students and researchers who will continue to benefit from his generosity for years to come.”
The Strauss Center is dedicated to fulfilling the legacy of Robert Strauss by fostering the intellectual innovation and leadership necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Throughout his career, Ambassador Strauss had the unique ability of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and encouraging open dialogue between all levels of academia, government, and the private sector. He valued giving voice to the next generation of leaders. The Strauss Center continues to honor this legacy by nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers and policymakers and contributing cutting-edge yet practical perspectives to the policy debate.
Bob Strauss will be deeply missed by everyone at the Strauss Center, LBJ School, and the University of Texas. But he will live on in the lives of his beloved family, in the countless people whose lives he touched, in the nation that he served so honorably and effectively, and in the Strauss Center as we strive to embody his values of civility, innovation, and leadership.
More on the incredible legacy of Ambassador Robert S. Strauss can be found below:
Robert Strauss, a Longhorn Legend by the University of Texas
Robert S. Strauss, Texas lawyer and versatile political insider, dies at 95 by the Washington Post
Robert S. Strauss, Presidential Confidant and Deal Maker, Dies at 95 by the New York Times
Robert Strauss dies at 95; former Democratic Party chair by Los Angeles Times
Ambassador Bob Strauss, RIP by Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Will Inboden in Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog
Former DNC Chairman Robert Strauss dies at 95 by The Hill
Robert Strauss, 1918-2014 in Politico
Robert S. Strauss, Top Washington Trouble-Shooter, Dies at 95 by Bloomberg News
Ex-Democratic Chairman Robert Strauss dies at 95 by the Associated Press
George H.W. Bush says Strauss a valued advisor by the Houston Chronicle
Dallas’ Bob Strauss, former Democratic Party chairman, dies at 95 by the Dallas Morning News
The Life and Career of Robert Strauss by C-SPAN
Oral history interviews, including videos from the Academy of Achievement
The Whole Damn Deal: Robert Strauss and the Art of Politics by Kathryn J. McGarr
Robert Strauss Oral History – Hell, Mr. President, I didn’t even vote for you” by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
Robert S. Strauss Oral History by LBJ Presidential Library