Remembrance from Michael Posner

I am writing to add my thoughts to the wonderful collection of reflections that people have offered these last couple of days. I first met Jerry in 1978 when he interviewed and then hired me to be the director of a new organization he helped found called the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. To say the least he took a chance hiring me. While I was no doubt very enthusiastic, I was also 27 years old, three years out of law school and wet behind the ears. But Jerry always had faith in me, and over the last three decades he was my mentor, colleague and friend.   I always knew that he was standing beside me.

Jerry had a rare mix of qualities. He was a highly effective corporate lawyer and advocate, who excelled in private practice, but always focused on serving the broader public interest.  He had boundlessmenergy and a knack for taking up the most difficult and seemingly intractable problems. He once wrote about Sisyphus, and compared human rights advocates to this mythical figure who struggled endlessly to push the boulder up the mountain.  That was Jerry, always working harder, and devoting himself to pushing dictators and authoritarian to stop abusing the most vulnerable in their societies. Jerry represented the underdogs as well as anyone I know. He had great analytic skills and abilities as an advocate and took special delight in using these skills and his access to power and influence to make the world a better place. He did this as ABA President, and as US Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights, and as the long-time chair of the International League for Human Rights. Jerry was a joiner, but he joined organizations like the ABA to make a difference for human rights.  And his life story includes a long list of such accomplishments.

This week we have lost a great friend, a man who made a lasting contribution to our world.  Jerry Shestack was a decent, wise and compassionate man, a man who lived a rich and wonderful life with Marciarose and their family. He also was a man who dedicated himself to the pursuit of justice , fairness and the rule of law. He fought for human rights when there were few prominent voices in the arena, and he helped make human rights the mainstream issue that it is today. And he always fought that fight on behalf of  the most vulnerable people in our world.

We will miss him greatly.

Michael Posner, U.S. State Department

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