"The American people, far from being shortsighted and easily manipulated on foreign policy issues, will -- when presented with unbiased and meaningful choices -- make thoughtful decisions. I think it is now up to our nation's leaders to respond in like manner." -- Cyrus Vance, 1988
Along with social scientist Daniel Yankelovich, Mr. Vance founded Public Agenda in 1975 and served as chairman of the board for many years. He died in 2002 at age 84.
He was best known for his service as U.S. secretary of state from 1977 to 1980, under President Carter, where he was instrumental in negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty and the Camp David peace accord. Earlier, he served as deputy secretary of defense and secretary of the Army under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Later, during the 1990s, Mr. Vance was personal envoy of the secretary-general of the United Nations in the Greece-Macedonia negotiations, and personal envoy to the former Yugoslavia. Mr. Vance was also appointed chairman of the International Blue Ribbon Panel on Missing Persons in the former Yugoslavia.
At Public Agenda, Mr. Vance was the guiding force for the organization's work on arms control and foreign policy during the 1980s. In particular, he was a leader in the groundbreaking project called "The Public, The Soviets and Nuclear Arms," which combined in-depth research on public attitudes on U.S.-Soviet relations with a series of town hall meetings around the country. More than 76,000 people came together in the "Public Summit '88" town hall sessions to discuss options for dealing with the Soviet Union. Public Agenda conducted the project in conjunction with the Center for Foreign Policy Development at Brown University.
In addition to serving as chairman of Public Agenda's board, Mr. Vance was a trustee emeritus at The Mayo Foundation, and chairman of the Japan Society from 1985 to 1993 and of the American Ditchley Foundation from 1981 to 1994. Mr. Vance was also former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and of The Rockefeller Foundation, and former vice-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Mr. Vance served as associate and partner in the New York law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett over five decades until his retirement in January 1998. A former president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, he had been a member of the American Bar Association, the American Bar Foundation and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
In 1969, Mr. Vance was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. Mr. Vance held both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale University, honorary degrees from over 20 American colleges and universities, and several foreign degrees.
"Cyrus Vance was a great American in the tradition of George Marshall and John McCloy," said Mr. Yankelovich, Public Agenda co-founder and current chairman. "You had only to conjure up the recollection of him in his years of government service to realize that Tom Brokaw's title, 'The Greatest Generation,' is no hype. I never knew anyone who so totally dedicated his whole being to the public good. And yet, over and above his public persona, the private side of him touched all who knew him. Not only his immediate family but an incredibly large circle of friends and associates loved him for himself. His death leaves a gaping hole in our lives."