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During his five-and-a-half-decade career, Warren Christopher has navigated some of the world’s noisiest disputes-Israel and Hezbollah, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Los Angeles riots. But when friends and colleagues describe the man they call “Chris,” the word they use most often is “quiet.” Whether negotiating foreign policy with global leaders or pushing his partners at O’Melveny & Myers to focus on diversity, Christopher wields his influence softly. “He doesn’t lead by dominating conversations,” says O’Melveny vice-chair Robert Siegel. “He leads by being the wisest person in the room.” Christopher, 80, began standing out early. While in law school he cofounded the Stanford Law Review and was its first president. After graduating, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas before joining O’Melveny as a litigator in 1950. He went on to argue four cases before the Supreme Court and served as O’Melveny’s chairman for ten years. But it’s his work outside of O’Melveny that has brought Christopher the most recognition. He has served as deputy attorney general, deputy secretary of State, and secretary of State under Presidents Johnson, Carter, and Clinton, respectively. As deputy secretary of State, Christopher negotiated the release of 52 American hostages from Iran, a feat that earned him the Medal of Freedom. As secretary of State, he spent ten days shuttling between Syria, Lebanon, and Israel in 1996 to broker a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah. In Los Angeles, his adopted city since age 13, Christopher had leading roles in two commissions that pulled the city back from the brink: In the mid-sixties, he was vice-chair of the McCone Commission, which investigated the causes of the Watts riots, and in the early nineties, he chaired the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, which proposed reforms after the Rodney King beating. Despite his long list of accomplishments, Christopher is taciturn when it comes to discussing his success. “I really don’t like the concept of pride,” he says. “Everything I’ve done has been the result of teamwork.” But others say that it’s Christopher’s knack for diplomacy that distinguishes his efforts. He is renowned for his reserved dignity, careful listening, and ability to find common ground among disparate parties. “I’ve always thought that I listen better than I talk,” Christopher says, “so I’ve tried to adapt to one of my strengths.” Christopher’s days of tactful coordination are far from over. He serves in O’Melveny’s office of the chair, responsible for diversity, and heads the firm’s values task force. He’s cochairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy. And when he’s not exercising his diplomatic skills, he’s teaching them, spending three hours a week leading a seminar on international hot spots at the University of California, Los Angeles. The class “helps me from growing too old too fast,” Christopher says. Perhaps it’s also training the next generation of quiet leaders. Back to Main Story

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