Eulogy by Mr. Richard V. Allen

Foreign Policy Coordinator to Richard Nixon
Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to Ronald Reagan, 1977-1980
National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan, 1980-1982

February 1, 2014

To all who knew and loved Gordy, and especially to Cathy and Kim, the grandchildren, and all related by blood and association, business, fraternity: I extend the deepest sympathies of the Allen family, my wife Pat, on my own behalf and on the 35 others who constitute the tribe that we have created, including our Cathy and our Kim, who used to bounce on Gordy’s knee when a little girl in Washington.

When we lose a friend, we think of the “standpoint” that we have toward that friend or family member. Anyone precious who has departed and slipped this surly bonds, we have a standpoint toward such a person…..A national leader, a great religious symbol in the world. Someone who made a difference. Someone who left an indelible mark on our history, of the history of our time. That standpoint is really important, and it dictates how we will recall that person in the medium and indeed the longer term.
For many years, when the Christian Science Monitor published in the print edition every day on the back page a little human interest story accompanied by a woodcut…A lovely little woodcut of a sundial in a glade. The sundial would faithfully perform its function of rendering the time as the sun shone upon it. Underneath, the eternal caption, which left a deep impression on me, read, “I record only the sunny hours”. That’s what we call a tautology. Of course, a sundial records only the sunny hours.
But those are the hours that shine brightly in our memory and as we assess the time that we’ve been privileged to spend here on earth with Gordy Zacks, we think of those sunny hours. They were indeed only sunny hours for me and for our family.

One thinks of the admonitions of Seneca, the Roman philosopher, dramatist, literary giant and statesman who lived about 65 A.D. and who said, among many other things, “The comfort of having a friend maybe taken away, but not that of having had one. As there is a sharpness in some fruits and a bitterness in some wines that please us, so there is a mixture in the remembrance of friends. The loss of their company is sweetened again by the contemplation of their virtues. In some respects, I have lost what I had and in others I retain still what I have lost. It is a new construction of providence to reflect only to my friends being taken away without any regard to the benefit of his once having been given to me.”

And in that context, we feel the bitterness of a loss of Gordy but we retain that essential sweetness in his own life and reflected upon us in so many ways. We remember because our memories reinforce the virtues of he who has departed. What virtues were they, in the case of Gordon Zacks? One thinks immediately of loyalty and faith and dedication to family, to friends, to causes. Yes, indeed, Gordy and causes: Inseparable concepts to country and one’s people. Gordy had the American people, but he also had the people of Israel and he felt not only passionately but fought passionately for the interests of both. Without there ever being a single hint of conflict of interest, as is so often alleged in our times today, and hypocritically, I might add.
Some, perhaps too many of you, have already heard the story of how Gordy and I met. I was advising Ronald Reagan over a period of years. Not differently from what I had done with Richard Nixon, prior to his presidency. The nomination occurred in Detroit and suddenly we had a Vice Presidential candidate named George Herbert Walker Bush, whom I had known for many years and was a friend of Gordy’s. George Bush called me and asked that meet Gordy in my office in Washington. Through the door came a very sturdy fellow with crew cut, wide shoulders, a double-breasted blazer, sharply creased trousers, an athletic build and a very wary look in his eyes. His first question to me was, “Will you tell me why on God’s green earth Ronald Reagan has picked a Catholic to handle Jewish affairs in this campaign?”

I thought the question not only funny and so impertinent that it deserved an impertinent answer. I said, “Well, because Mr. Zacks, I’ve done it before and the second reason is I’m very, very good at it.” Well, that melted the initial ice. Not many men approach very often in that way but he had a good question: Why? I gave him the answers and we became hard and fast friends.

It made a big difference to me, and I began to learn of the additional virtues of this remarkable man as we became friends and very quickly. Commitment, integrity, honor. The duty to assist the less fortunate. To lead. And then it came time for him to come after me again, when I was tasked with a very unpleasant task. Part of my duty — since no one else wanted to do it—was to handle the sale of advanced early warning aircraft, AWACs aircraft, to Saudi Arabia. I said to one of my colleagues, my deputy, an admiral, “This is going to burn my bridges to the Jewish community, I think.” Well, it didn’t take long to see who the first torch bearer was to come through the door — it was Gordy. He said to me, “Dick, we’re going to beat you on this one” and I said, “No Gordy, you’re not going to beat us on this.”

This sale was started by President Carter and the decision for President Reagan is whether or not t let this sale ogo forward, which would cause more problems than we have imagined. And besides, Gordy, let me assure you that I know that even if these airplanes are in Saudi Arabia, they pose no threat to Israel because in the first five minutes of any conflict, you can be sure that Israel will flick those early warning aircraft right out of the sky. Oh, he said, “Dick, we’re going to beat you. I’ve got the Congress.” Oh, I said, “Really? Gee that’s scary. Gordy, I’ve got the President of the United States.” And it was a long struggle. The House of Representatives was lost. In the Senate the vote was 52 “yes” and the sale went forward. It didn’t affect the relationship that Gordy and I had established that earlier year in one way or another. If anything, it deepened our love, trust and respect for each other.

And then a few months later, again, I got a phone call on a Sunday night in June. “Dick, I just learned about the Israelis having taken out a reactor in Iraq. What’s the story?” Well, I’d been dealing with the story all that Sunday afternoon from my home. I called the President when I learned that the reactor had been destroyed by aircraft that Israel was not really supposed to use for that purpose and which were not supposed to be able to go that far without refueling, because they couldn’t refuel without going across Saudi Arabia. Well, that was interesting. Gordy said, “Tell me, what was the reaction?”

Well, I hadn’t had the chance to tell anybody else what the reaction was but I called the President. The President was getting on a helicopter and the Marine colonel at Camp David said to me, “I’m sorry sir, the President is on the helicopter.” I said, “Get him off.” “Oh, he wouldn’t like that very much, sir.” I said, “Well, I guess your next two term tours of duty, will be served in Alaska, Major or Colonel whatever you are.” “I’ll get him sir.” He came to the phone, he said, “Yes, what is it ?” And I described what happened. He said, “They did what? The Israelis did what?” I repeated the story. He said, “Why do you suppose they did that, Dick?” “I don’t know sir, but as soon as you’re back at the White House, I’ll have some sort of report for you.”

I could hear the helicopter blades whilring. He wasn’t finished commenting yet; he was reflecting. He said, “You know what, Dick?” And I said, “What’s that, Mr. President?” He said, “Boys will be boys.”

The next day there was a fractious meeting. Some members of the administration wanted to take the planes back from Israel. I don’t think I need categorize the response of President Reagan, which was not the response of some of his Cabinet.

A very interesting period of public debate ensued. But Gordy made sure he was out there, backing and filling. Doing his part on the outside, which we appreciated deeply. Doing it not only in the Jewish community, but elsewhere.

The difference that this great and good man has made. the imprint that he’s left on us, is large. A lasting imprint and not only just on you and me and the family. It’s on his country and on the world and on Israel.

And so we do say, farewell dear friend, farewell!

I now share with you a very moving and appropriate poem that I’ve never shared before, especially on an occasion like this, but which I heard many years ago and believe now would be the most appropriate time to share it with you.
It’s by Isla Pascal Richardson and its title is, “To Those I Love”.

If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the silent way,
Grieve not,
Nor speak of me with tears,
But laugh and talk of me
As if I were beside you there.
(I’d come – I’d come, could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song or
See a bird I loved,
Please do not let the thought of me be sad…
For I am loving you just as I always have…
You were so good to me!
There are so many things I wanted still to do –
So many things to say to you…
Remember that I did not fear
It was just leaving you that was so hard to face…
We cannot see beyond…
But this I know:
I love you so -
’Twas heaven here with you!

Read Next Eulogy (Rabbi Harold Berman)
Read Previous Eulogy (Governor John Kasich)

Leave a Reply