Good evening, everyone. My Mother, my Uncle Tony, and the whole Fairbanks family want to thank all of you for joining us tonight. My father went through life gathering up friends, and we're so glad that so many of you could come together, all at once, in his memory.
Maybe some of you remember the old line: "I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He told me, don't be ridiculous -- everyone hasn't met me yet." It was the kind of joke my Dad loved, and what made me think of the line is that it was the opposite of Dad's own experience. Everybody who met him took a quick liking to him, and the opinion only got better with time.
I especially thank our guests who came from near and far, including our friend Sam Nunn. In this room, certainly in one respect, Sam held the highest rank among my father's friends -- and it has nothing at all to do with any office he ever held. I believe Senator Nunn is the only man my father admitted could beat him in golf. Whatever the scorecard said, Sam, there was no man whose company my Dad appreciated more than yours -- he thought the world of you.
Dad was a man whose high opinion meant something, because he had a good heart, and instincts that were generous and fair. He looked for those qualities in others, and he found them in the men and women we've invited here tonight. Bill Ruckelshaus, his longtime colleague and law partner, along with Albert Beveridge... Secretary Brzezinski, a man my father counted himself very fortunate to work with... Justice O'Connor... and everyone here, so distinguished and so cherished by our family: you are the ones my father had in mind when he called himself rich in friends. And that's just one reason to celebrate the life of Dick Fairbanks.
In the 72 years given to him, the greatest friendship of all lasted half a century. And I once offered a theory about that. Both my mother and father had work that seemed to take them, separately, to the far corners of the earth. And the secret to their successful, 50-year marriage, I concluded, was that they spent only 25 years of it together.
For Mom, that reduced by roughly half the number of puns and practical jokes that she had to deal with. Everyone who knew the man remembers those. He always had a story or a line he'd been waiting to trot out. Now it's true, I admit, that some of Dad's jokes had a heavy rotation. He agreed with Ronald Reagan that it was easier to get a new audience than a new joke. But it was all a part of his program, the spirit he took from place to place, and the general effect was warm, unpretentious, and often very sweet.
My Mother got her first acquaintance with this routine in Boston, when Dad was at Yale and would come up to visit her at Newton College of the Sacred Heart. He was in Navy ROTC, and at first she knew him only as the hardworking scholarship boy from rural Indiana. She pictured him plowing the ground and doing morning chores on the Fairbanks forty acres. Dick said not a word to correct this impression, until one day when Ann paid her first visit to Indiana, and at last got a look at the old homestead. She had packed gingham dresses, and shoes suitable for fieldwork just in case she was asked to pitch in, only to be met at the airport by a man in a cap who called Dad "sir". She said, "Who's that?" Dad explained, "Oh, that's Sostan. He's the chauffeur."
As surprises go early in a courtship, that was one of the better ones. And for all of the other pleasant surprises that would follow, in a wonderful, loving marriage, there was a consistency of character in the man and his ways. His father was on the stern side, and more likely Dad acquired that lightness of manner from his mother, whom he loved dearly. He had a sense of fun, enthusiasm, and adventure. So often these fall away as the years and cares of life begin to add up, but somehow this man never lost them.
Enthusiasm, in particular, was never lacking in Dick Fairbanks. He experienced things freshly. At times he could sound like an excited kid describing some new book he had just finished, a foreign city he had just seen, an acquaintance he had just made. He was a worldly man, but never jaded. And that's saying something, given the experiences he had and the things he achieved.
Inheriting a good family name is one thing -- it's so easy I did it myself. Adding achievements of one's own to a good name is a little more difficult. This very building dates back to one of the civic-minded projects of my great-great grandmother Nellie, who was the wife of Vice President Charles Fairbanks. But by the 1960s, I guess you could say that the family's reputation as a political force needed a little refreshing. It got that and more from my father, who brought to public affairs the best kind of ambition -- striving not to be somebody, but to do good things for his country.
His service began with the oath of a Navy officer. At least six times more, he would swear to well and faithfully discharge the duties given to him. Whatever the post, four presidents and everyone else knew that this man who could be so light-hearted and companionable was also, without fail, a serious guy for serious business.
For such an outgoing personality, he sure had a lot of firepower -- Dad could really bear down and get things done. People saw that in him. He was needed more in those official positions than he needed to hold them. I know this because at the start of the Reagan years, Al Haig himself came to our house to make his pitch to the whole family. The Secretary of State wanted our Dad, and no one else would do. Maybe he saw Dick Fairbanks as I came to see Dad when I got older -- as among the best of a generation of men and women, Republican and Democrat, whose main devotion was to the cause of America.
When I think of Dad in those days, I see him up early, with his usual breakfast fare of coffee and a cigarette, poring over The Washington Post. He was a man in his prime, fully engaged, a Washington player but never an operator, alert to the great events of the time and happy and proud to be a part of it all.
He liked to remark that the problem with politicians is this: "It's the ninety percent who give the other ten percent a bad reputation." Well, Dick Fairbanks was the kind of fellow who gave public service a good reputation. He was the kind of man any generation could use more of.
And it wasn't by change that most of his positions had the word "counselor" somewhere in the job description. Whether it was in government, at the law firm, or at CSIS, this wasn't a guy who made his reputation by dazzling conference rooms with statistics and power points. Dad was more the consigliere type. Partly from legal training, but largely by nature, he was a careful, orderly thinker. In so many situations, he was the one who could always get to the heart of the matter, who could take any problem and find a clear way through it.
You could see these qualities at work when he faced his final problem, strategizing with his doctors when there was still hope... and then, with equal clarity, understanding that it was not to be. He was graceful and accepting, when he knew that the only strategy left was to be ready. I counted on my father's wisdom more than a few times, even as an adult. I won't have that chance again, but I do have his example, and for my brother and me that is not a bad gift to call our own.
It wouldn't surprise you that when I feel the greatest void he left behind, it is when I am standing on a putting green. My great rival -- my endlessly competitive father -- isn't there to place a dollar bet. On the golf course, you might say I held back just a little bit on account of a lesson I learned on the tennis court. When I was the captain of the St. Andrew's tennis team, and finally got the better of Dad in that game, my reward was to hear him say, "Well, that's it." He never played tennis again. So, having prevailed at tennis, I told him there and then: "I'm not going to beat you at golf, because then you'll have nothing to do."
Life was a series of contests for Dick Fairbanks, with the usual mix of victories and disappointments. He was a realistic, honest man, too, and when he fell short of the mark he didn't mind saying so. He told me once, by way of acknowledging a fault, that no man is a hero to those who really know him well. But I'm not so sure that's always true. I spent a lot of years watching this guy closely, and his life was filled with so much good, and with so many people who are better off for sharing the journey with him. He gave life his best. His best was very impressive. And if anyone should ever say to me that I remind them of my father, I will take that as a sign that I'm not doing so badly myself.
This celebration brings together hundreds who were unreservedly fond of him. He wasn't that old, by today's standards, and speaking of him only in the past tense still takes some getting used to. But whenever we do think back to Richard M. Fairbanks, it will always be with a smile, and that's just how he'd want it. Thank you very much.