Zak/APEgypt opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei in 2007.
Don't be surprised when I tell you the leading figure of the Egypt
uprising counts among his mentors a brilliant New York
professor who was Jewish and fled the Nazis as a boy.
Or that this same professor happened to be openly gay and had married his longtime partner before dying two years ago.
After all, Mohamed ElBaradei
worked as Prof. Thomas Franck
's research assistant here in New York, where the swirling mix of ethnicities and backgrounds and faiths is our city's greatness.
Those tear gas canisters might be "Made in the U.S.A.
," but part of what makes ElBaradei stand up against those who fire them is "Made in N.Y."
Franck was 7 when his family escaped Berlin
just ahead of Kristallnacht
, and he carried with him a life-long understanding that fascism is the darkest evil and freedom is as important as air.
He grew up to become the preeminent scholar and practitioner of international law, advising a host of newborn nations as they merged from colonialism, helping to draft the constitution of Tanzania
He represented Bosnia
in The Hague
when it accused Serbia
of genocide - a Jew standing up against the mass murder of Muslims.
In the early 1970s, Franck's students included a young man from Cairo
whose father was head of the Egyptian Bar Association
and often at odds with the repressive Nasser regime.
"Fighting for democracy, fighting for human rights," ElBaradei later said of his father.
"I wanted to have a world where people are free to express their views, to have freedom of worship, to have freedom from want."
Such a hope, when shared, crosses all differences. Franck became ElBaradei's guide toward making it a reality on a bigger than big scale.
"He was really instrumental in making me understand that we need to look at the global picture, and we always need to not take anything for granted, but go very much through a process of critical thinking before we formulate our views," ElBaradei later said.
"He was ... instrumental in shaping my views as to how to pursue my career in the future."
Franck helped ElBaradei get a job at the United Nations
. ElBaradei rose on his own to head the International Atomic Energy Agency
, much to the consternation of the Bush administration as it contrived to invade Iraq
When ElBaradei received the Nobel Peace Prize
in 2005, he invited his mentor to attend. Franck continued to teach and to practice the best kind of international law even when stricken with cancer.
Two months before his death in 2009, Franck was in Macedonia
, representing that nation in its effort to join NATO
and the European Union
. He and his partner, Martin Daly
, stopped in Vienna
on the way back and had dinner with ElBaradei and his wife, Aida Elkachef
"They really are the nicest people in the world," Daly has said.
ElBaradei was calm and thoughtful, as always.
"He's a total intellectual. He's a very smart man," Daly said. "If I was going to think of somebody he's like, it would be Obama
There's talk of ElBaradei running for president of Egypt. It was hard to imagine anyone quitting a quiet and comfortable existence in Vienna for the tumult and dangers of Cairo, especially somebody who did not seem to be driven by personal ambition.
"So not [a] maniac ego person," Daly said.
The answer could only be a true love of freedom. The love that ElBaradei shared with the man who became his mentor, thanks to the greatness of Lady Liberty's city.
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