Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.)
March 19, 1925 – August 6, 2020
FALLS CHURCH, VA — Following is a statement on the passing of Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.).
Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft passed away yesterday at the age of 95 of natural causes. Brent Scowcroft was an American patriot and public servant of the highest order with an extraordinary military and government service career spanning over 60 years. His entire professional life was devoted to how best to protect America and advance its interests. He mentored two generations of American public servants who revered him for his brilliance, integrity, humility and fundamental decency. He served the United States with great honor and distinction and is considered one of the most influential experts in international affairs.
General Scowcroft served as the National Security Advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He is the only man to have ever served two presidents as National Security Advisor. Given his role as advisor to US Presidents Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, no individual has provided as many commanders-in-chief as much national security advice – irrespective of party lines.
Informed by the philosophy he called “enlightened realism,” General Scowcroft recognized the essential – though not limitless – role US power and leadership could play in making the world a safer and more prosperous place. His legacy is set apart not just by his worldview, but also by the way he operated in the world. Despite his military background, General Scowcroft held the belief that although military force is an important tool of statecraft, it is not a substitute for policy and diplomacy. His thinking, which placed a premium on strategy, was guided by key principles, including the importance of history in shaping international affairs, the necessity of strong US international leadership to ensure that a world of national disorder does not become chaos, the importance of gaining domestic and international support for US leadership, and the utility of working through allies, coalitions, and international institutions.
Born in 1925 in Ogden, Utah, General Scowcroft was a 1947 graduate of West Point where he has been recognized as a Distinguished Graduate. He received his master’s degree in 1953 and a doctorate in 1967 in International Relations from Columbia University. He attended Lafayette College, Georgetown University School of Language and Linguistics, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the National War College.
His Air Force service included Professor of Russian History at West Point, Assistant Air Attaché in Yugoslavia, Head of the Political Science Department at the Air Force Academy, Air Force Long Range Plans, Office of the Secretary of Defense International Security Affairs, Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Military Assistant to President Nixon. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force design), Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. He served through the rank of Lieutenant General. He retired from this position to serve as National Security Advisor to President Ford.
Following his retirement from the military, he continued in public policy serving numerous Administrations. General Scowcroft joined President George H.W. Bush’s administration as National Security Advisor during a period of historic change, which included the end of the Cold War, German reunification and the first Gulf War in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. He chaired or served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Arms Control, the Commission on Strategic Forces, the President’s Special Review Board (also known as the Tower Commission), the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Secretary of State’s Advisory Board, the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Board, and the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board. He also served on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards.
In 1991, General Scowcroft was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George H.W. Bush, and in 1993 was awarded an honorary knighthood – a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) – by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2009, he was presented the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in 2015 the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.
In 1994, General Scowcroft founded The Scowcroft Group, an international advisory firm, in which he was active until recently.
Brent Scowcroft is survived by his daughter, Karen Scowcroft and his granddaughter, Meghan. He was preceded in death by his wife Marian, and sisters Janice Hinckley and Odette Scowcroft Cawley.
Once arrangements have been finalized, an invitation for an intimate, private funeral service will be sent via email.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service or the U.S. Military Academy’s Scowcroft Cadet Government Internship Endowment.
“The four years that George and Barbara Bush served in the White House were four years that changed our nation and world for the better — and one of the main reasons for that was because President Bush had General Brent Scowcroft by his side. He was a public servant of the highest order, always putting the good of the country ahead of other concerns. Nobody worked longer hours, nobody knew more about working the levers of international power, and in the end very few contributed more to the universal cause of freedom than Brent Scowcroft. While we mourn his passing, we can take heart that his legacy lives on in the fantastic work of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs within the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. It is altogether fitting that, while these two giants have left us, the life’s work of George Bush and Brent Scowcroft will be forever linked in Aggieland.”
KENNEBUNKPORT, MAINE — “Laura and I are saddened to learn that Brent Scowcroft passed away last night. This patriot had a long career of distinguished service to our country. As a retired Air Force general, he gave sound and thoughtful advice to several presidents. He was an especially important advisor to my father – and an important friend. Laura and I, and my family, send our condolences to Brent’s daughter, Karen, and the Scowcroft family.”
“Brent Scowcroft was a true American patriot who dedicated his bright mind, hard work and great integrity to the security of his country. He was, quite simply, a model national security advisor who helped guide the United States and the world through the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War when he held that position for President George H.W. Bush. As Secretary of State who worked with Brent during that tumultuous period, I knew that he could be counted upon to always remain focused with laser-like effectiveness on the big picture at hand. Congeniality, transparency and an even-keel nature were keys to his success, and because of those traits, I knew that he always had my back. My wife, Susan, and I will greatly miss Brent’s warm friendship, boundless optimism and sincere kindness, and we send our heartfelt sympathy to his daughter, Karen, and the entire Scowcroft family.” — James A. Baker, III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State
“A great patriot and defender of America has passed. Brent Scowcroft’s service to two presidents, and to the presidency and the country, is the gold standard by which all others are and will be measured. A man of impeccable integrity and courage, Brent was also the best friend anyone could have. He was my mentor for decades and I will miss him dearly.”
“A great American and a dear friend of mine just passed away. Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, USAF, (Ret), was 95 years old. I had the privilege of knowing him when he was the National Security Advisor to President Gerald R. Ford. Some years later he replaced me as National Security Advisor to President George H. W. Bush. We always stayed in touch in those intervening years. His dedication to the Air Force and to the Nation was unprecedented. I learned a great deal from Brent about loyalty, dedication, and selfless service. He will be missed by all who knew him. They don’t come any better.”
“We at the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University mourn the passing of General Brent Scowcroft. He was a great American and a great public servant: a role model for Bush School students who aspire to a career in public service. General Scowcroft is properly regarded as one of the greatest national security advisors since the position was created. His National Security Council reforms after the Iran-Contra controversy – which remain in place to this day – strengthened the White House foreign policy management process. He gave prudent and carefully thought out policy advice to President George H.W. Bush during a turbulent and chaotic period in international affairs where one mistake could well have led to a conflagration. General Scowcroft displayed a keen understanding of the world as it was, not as we dreamed it should be. President George H.W. Bush’s historic record of achievement in foreign affairs was, in no small measure, a function of the high-quality people he chose to run the foreign policy apparatus of the federal government. Brent Scowcroft was foremost among them. One of General Scowcroft’s legacies is the Institute which carries his name here at the Bush School which aspires to provide thoughtful research, commentary and scholarship on issues facing the United States and the world. “
“Brent Scowcroft was a statesman, strategist, general, and patriot who dedicated his life to the security of the American people. He was present at the creation of a new era in American foreign policy in helping President George H.W. Bush to manage the peaceful end of the Cold War. In doing so, he quite literally reshaped our world. His dedication transcended political ideology, which is why presidents, vice presidents, and foreign policy thinkers of both the Republican and Democratic administrations sought and valued his counsel. His leadership as national security advisor continues to serve as a gold standard, and his example will inspire future generations of policy makers to serve our country with honor. Jill and I send our deepest condolences to his daughter Karen, and the entire Scowcroft family. “
“Brent Scowcroft was the very definition of a public servant — a man of integrity, grace, love of country, and humility. He was the standard for every National Security Adviser and a role model for so many others who sought to serve our country.
His passing is a great personal loss for me. Brent was my most important mentor. It is fair to say that he, almost single-handedly, paved the road for me to enter government in 1989. And from that day on, he was my advocate, my role model, and my friend.
I will miss him but am grateful that his peaceful passing into the arms of the Lord is now complete. Those of us who were fortunate to know him and learn from him can find comfort in knowing that his memory and his spirit remain with us as a guide for how to serve.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his beloved daughter Karen and the apple of his eye, Meghan. God Bless you.” (Source)
“Brent Scowcroft passed away last night. He set the standard for all Nat Sec Advisors. He got the balance right between being an honest broker for the potus & a counselor to him. He was no less exceptional as a mentor, colleague, & friend. May his memory always be for a blessing.” (Source)
“In uniform and at the highest levels of government, Brent Scowcroft served the country he loved with dedication and distinction. He was a brilliant thinker, a model national security advisor, and a treasured friend. I will miss him dearly.” (Source)
“Brent Scowcroft was kind, wise, generous, and brilliant. The gold standard for national security advisors, a valued mentor and peerless public servant. My deepest condolences to his family. May he RIP.” (Source)
“From his distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force to his many contributions to enhancing our national security under multiple U.S. Presidents, Brent Scowcroft led a legendary life of service. As the namesake of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, he helped bring some of the world’s leading minds to our campus to discuss and debate vital policies shaping the world of today and tomorrow. His impact and his influence at Texas A&M and around the world were immeasurable, and he will be greatly missed.”
“Our world is a lesser place today after losing Lieutenant General (retired) Brent Scowcroft. I believe historians will characterize General Scowcroft as one of the greatest national security strategists in American history. And I know that anyone who knew him would also characterize him as one of the greatest gentlemen they ever met. Rest in peace, Sir; please say hi to “41” for us. The Bush School will ensure our nation never forgets either one of you.”
The memorial service was held on Saturday, August 22, 2020 at Fort Myer, Virginia, and included eulogies from the following speakers. Click here to view the full Memorial Program.
Brent asked me to join the NSC staff on loan from CIA in the spring of 1974, four months before President Nixon resigned. It was a decision I never regretted. He was the best boss I ever had, and, over time, he became my best friend. I loved him. And I was far from alone in doing so.
One way or another, I worked with Brent for some 45 years, most closely under president ford and then especially President George H. W. Bush. In all the jobs I had thereafter, he was my most trusted counselor and sounding board. He was a world-class strategist and a far-sighted, bold thinker.
Brent is often described as the model national security adviser, not least because other senior officials – especially Jim Baker and Dick Cheney – trusted him to faithfully represent their views to the President. But Brent was far from a passive rapporteur or great policy traffic cop. He had strong views and was never shy about putting them forward.
As a matter of fact, Brent loved to argue. He and I argued all the time when I was his deputy. He argued with Larry Eagleburger, Condi Rice, Bob Blackwill, Richard Haass, Ginny Lampley, Arnie Kantor and so many more – he relished the give-and-take with people he respected and liked. And, on those rare occasions when he yielded a point, it was always grudging. Those he argued with the most, loved him the most. And that is telling.
What set Brent apart as national security adviser was that he played fair – he never blind-sided his colleagues, he never disparaged others to the President, he facilitated getting unhappy senior officials in to see the President, he did not take advantage of his close relationship with the President to disadvantage others.
Beyond his deep commitment to protect America and to do so respecting the law, orderly process and the institutions of government, Brent was singularly focused on protecting the presidency itself. His calm demeanor, personal humility and sense of humor masked the fact that he could get mad. I mean truly angry. And his temper nearly always was ignited by the same match: whenever officials in the White House or elsewhere in government placed their personal interests above those of the President. When other officials’ actions added to the President’s burdens, flouted the authority of the President, or claimed credit for achievements that were rightfully the President’s.
Brent demanded excellence and hard work but, at the same time, he was truly fun to work for. He had a high tolerance for being teased. You may remember that Brent got into some hot water when the President sent him and Larry Eagleburger to china after the tragedy at Tiananmen Square and Brent gave a dinner toast that proved controversial. After that, before an official dinner with some particularly obnoxious foreign leader, I’d ask Brent if he was going to give the toast. After he and ‘41 came up with the notion of the New World Order one summer up in Maine, I’d tell Brent and others that the New World Order is what you get when the bluefish aren’t biting.
Then, of course, there was the now-famous Scowcroft Award, created by ‘41 to recognize the senior official who most obviously fell asleep in a meeting with the President. An award Brent won many times. My favorite was one time in the Oval Office with a particularly boring foreign leader. Jim Baker, Brent and I were seated on the couch. Brent got drowsy, scooted forward to the edge of the couch and put his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands. He fell asleep, his elbows slipped off his knees and he pitched forward, headed directly for the flower arrangement on the President’s coffee table. I stuck my arm out in time to catch him and eased him back on to the sofa.
But there is a back story to the daytime naps. After along and stressful day at the White House, Brent would go home to take care of his ailing wife Jackie, doing the laundry, the cooking, the housecleaning. More than once I heard from someone who had spotted Brent at the neighborhood grocery store at midnight.
The only times I ever went behind Brent’s back with the President were when Jackie was in the hospital. Brent wouldn’t leave the office in the evening until the President had gone to the residence and so I would sneak down to the President’s study off the Oval Office and tell him Jackie was in the hospital and he needed to head to the residence early so Brent could go to the hospital. After Brent left, I’d give the all clear, and ‘41 would return to the Oval.
Brent’s deep love of family obviously centered on Karen and, later in life, Meghan. Mentioning Karen or Meghan to Brent was guaranteed to bring a smile to his face and a twinkle to his eye.
I suppose this is the proper point to correct the historical record and recent newspaper stories in one important respect. Who would ever imagine that the ascetic-looking high priest of national security really and truly liked a good vodka martini – chopin, very dry, straight up, with a lemon twist.
There are very few men and women in the American public arena who, in a lifetime of service to our country, have earned and kept the respect, admiration and even the affection of all who knew them, in and out of government. Brent was one of those all too rare figures. Tough as nails on matters he cared about, Brent was at the same time the most decent, kindest and humble person I have ever known. A man of impeccable integrity and unbounded courage, he was a true patriot – an American icon. And the best friend anyone could ever have.
That Brent Scowcroft has left us is difficult to absorb. For over half a century, he had been part of my life as a colleague, a friend, and a kind of national conscience.
Brent and I met on President Nixon’s White House staff—he as Military Aide, I as Security Advisor. Brent’s duties included managing Air Force One and, when Nixon flew, accompanying him. That is how Brent and I came to know each other: during long flights in conversations on international affairs, especially about Russia, his academic specialty, and occasionally about the complexities of the Washington bureaucracy as well as its idiosyncrasies.
When, in 1972, General Alexander Haig, then my deputy, was appointed NATO Commander, President Nixon generously permitted me to recommend Haig’s replacement. I selected Brent, who had not sought the position. A kind fate guided me. Brent brought important dimensions: impressive intelligence, exceptional administrative skills, and a self-effacing tenacity in pursuit of the national interest. Combined with an impish sense of humor, this took the tension off the elaboration of guidelines for the President’s approval, one of the key aspects of the Security Advisor’s duties.
It was a period when America was tearing itself apart in a quest for moral absolutes. There was agreement on the objective—peace—but a deep division on the strategy for pursuing it. Brent’s steadiness had a calming influence then as did his faith in his country’s ultimate purposes. The divisions of that conflict, reappearing periodically, blight our own time.
Brent and I worked as a team. This was illustrated in September 1973, when I telephoned him from Moscow about negotiations with Leonid Brezhnev on ending the Middle East war. Brent greeted me with: “Henry, do you realize that we have problems of our own?” I replied impatiently: “What problems can you possibly have in Washington on a Saturday night?” Brent informed me that a determining episode in the Watergate crisis, later labelled the Saturday Night Massacre, had just taken place.
In 1975, after Nixon was replaced by Gerald Ford, Brent was promoted to Security Advisor. Brent’s new status—which preoccupied the media—did not alter our relationship based on friendship and trust, reinforced by both our friendships with President Ford.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush named Brent as his Security Advisor, making Brent the only individual in American history to be appointed to the position by two different Presidents. Bush’s was an extraordinary foreign policy Presidency. The triumvirate of Bush, Jim Baker, and Brent overcame Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, managed the collapse of the Soviet Union, assisted the unification of Germany, and preserved America’s relationship with China in the building of which Brent had played an important role twenty years earlier. In 1991, as the Bush administration was ending, I sent Brent a note: “No one has served this country more devotedly or more honorably.”
Brent’s service to the country did not end then. He continued to give principled non-partisan advice to senior officials of both parties and countless study groups.
A biographer wrote that honor and patriotism were Brent’s lodestars and that these qualities enabled him to separate fact from fiction and right from wrong. This made him into a kind of conscience for all.
In 2018, on the occasion of my 95th birthday, Nancy invited Brent to a dinner with some 100 special friends. Brent came though, by then, travel had become difficult for him. Nancy seated him on her right. At the end of the dinner, Brent came up to me and, despite the limitations of speech that had frustrated his last years, said something along the lines of a letter he had written me earlier, that our friendship was “one of the most cherished parts of my life.” I replied that his conduct had uplifted me.
Everyone whose life Brent touched will always remember this self-effacing man who fulfilled his life’s purpose of service and, in the process, achieved the triumph of character over circumstance.
It is said that Henry Kissinger was the author of the modern National Security Council system. And that is largely true. But Brent Scowcroft is the author of the modern National Security Advisor.
Brent established the model: the honest broker, enjoying the confidence of his national security colleagues while running a fair and open decision making process; the trusted counselor, sharing his advice privately with the President; the modest professional, working largely behind the scenes and off stage; a power player, to be sure, but with his ego well in hand; ready to give credit to others for success, and to accept blame for failure.
Brent created a culture within the National Security Council staff that endures to this day: support for the President regardless of party; putting the national interest ahead of politics; working long hours without complaint.
This was the tradition of selfless service, high integrity, and unflagging commitment that Brent established within the NSC staff and bequeathed to his successors as National Security Advisor. But Brent was virtually unique as National Security Advisor. For his personality, temperament, and character perfectly fit the model that he established for the office. A person of humility, but with enormous personal and intellectual gifts. Someone who treated everyone with respect — from foreign leaders to personal staff. But strong in his conviction that America at her best could be a force for good in the world. A confident man who attracted the nation’s finest to his NSC staff — and was secure enough to listen to them. Someone who always brought a unique perspective to the conversation, while insisting on intellectual rigor — and always asking, “so what is the strategy?” Brent would tell you frankly that you had not persuaded him, but always invite you back to try again! A person of bipartisan instincts — who worked across the political aisle and across Pennsylvania Avenue, but who staunchly defended and advanced American interests. And finally, that rarest of commodities — especially in Washington — a wise man, someone to whom it was worth listening.
There are few people in Washington who were as respected and revered as Brent Scowcroft. It was not just because of what he did, although his accomplishments were many. It was because of who he was. A true gentleman, in the best sense of the word, much loved by all who had the privilege of working with him. That was Brent Scowcroft.
May the Lord’s blessing be upon him, always.
I was doing research in the Bush presidential library in College Station Texas – that’s Bush 41 – and came across an previously undisclosed memorandum. It turns out President-elect Bush called Brent soon after the November 1988 election and asked him to be his national security advisor even though Brent had held that same job in the Ford administration. “After all, Brent,” the president explained, “you know the job so well you could do it with your eyes closed.”
Brent took 41’s words to heart, and slept through significant portions of the Bush presidency. That part is true, even if the conversation with the president never happened and no such memorandum exists. That didn’t stop Brent from laughing heartily at the story and at himself every time I told it.
It was in the late 1970’s or early 1980s when we first met. Truth is we didn’t know each other all that well when he asked me to come work on the Middle East on the National Security Council. After a day of thinking it over, I called back and said yes.
It was the best professional decision I ever made. It was also one of the best personal decisions. It was impossible not to learn from Brent. He mentored by example. He was open to argument, fair-minded, curious, willing to change his mind and admit error, demanding but at the same time decent and generous. I can still see him sitting in his chair, unmoving for what seemed like minutes, as he pondered the implications of some new information he’d received.
It is hard to explain how a job that required 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week filled with interagency meetings, a job that caused me to miss my honeymoon so I could travel to Europe and the Middle East with the president and Brent, could be fun, but it often was.
Saturdays were my favorite time, as Brent, Bob Gates and I would often meet in Brent’s West Wing office. Brent would be lying on the couch, awake but with his eyes closed, the two of us in chairs. We would talk about everything and everyone, alternating what was serious with howls of laughter. The conversation ranged from grand strategy to grand gossip. One morning Bob said, “You guys realize, it’s never going to be better than this.” He was right.
Most observers would agree that we –and by “we”, I mean the Bush administration – did ok too. The administration succeeded in ending the Cold War peacefully with a unified Germany in NATO, in building an international coalition that liberated Kuwait and ensured the post-Cold War era would not begin with an unanswered act of aggression, in bringing together Israelis and Arabs for the first time to openly discuss peace. No administration since Truman’s has had a better foreign policy record.
This success was due in no small part to the gentleman we remember today. For good reason Brent is viewed as the gold standard of NSA’s. Brent got the balance right, between being a counselor to the president and the guarantor of due process for everyone else.
A realist to his core, he thought the principal purpose of American foreign policy should be to shape the foreign policies of others, not transform them. He worked to protect the Sino-American relationship after Tiananmen at a time many others advocated for something very different. He pushed Israel to make peace; he was wary of being drawn deeply into the Balkans. Years later, he opposed the 2003 Iraq war and supported the JCPOA with Iran. Brent had the courage of his convictions, even when they went against foreign policy orthodoxy or were unpopular.
Native-born Israelis are called sabras, a fruit that is tough on the outside and soft on the inside. Brent was more the opposite. He was mild-mannered, but there was nothing mild about his intellect. He challenged the military when he didn’t think much of its proposed plans for liberating Kuwait. He had strong views about just about everything and everyone.
I remember a moment early in the Gulf crisis. As a first step, the President wanted to send American troops to Saudi Arabia, to make sure Saddam did not add to his conquests. The secretary of defense was to lead a US delegation to the Kingdom. The Saudis were reluctant to commit in advance to hosting US troops. Brent called in Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador, and told him no commitment, no delegation, no troops. If Saudi Arabia wanted American help, Brent suggested that he get the king on the phone there and then to get his agreement. The rest as they say is history.
Brent left government in January 1993 more than a little frustrated as there was much he wanted to do in a second term that he expected 41 would have. We had grown close by then and grew closer over the next three decades. I said before that Brent was a mentor; he was also a friend and, at times, a father to me. He would pull for me, go easy when I came up short, laugh with me and, when deserved, laugh at me. I loved him, as did Susan. The love was fully requited.
These remarks began with a reference to the running joke of Brent’s tendency to doze off. The Scowcroft Award, given to whomever nodded off most ostentatiously in meetings, was aptly named. Today, though, Brent alone receives the award as he goes to his final rest.
May his memory always be for a blessing.
On behalf of Karen, Meghan and the Scowcroft family, thank you all for being here today. You were all very special to him.
There is so much that seems wrong with our society and our world these days. Yet, we are given hope. We have just heard, from friends and former colleagues, how one man lived a life of such value, morals and dedication to doing good, that he has left a permanent mark in history. A mark for others to admire, study and, hopefully, emulate for generations to come.
I want to take just a few minutes to talk about a more personal side of this man…an attribute which resonates love, loyalty and dedication…and that is devotion. I’ve known Brent for 37 years…as a mentor, boss, colleague, friend and truly, a dear family member. What I have been witness to, and recipient of all these years, is this man’s incredible devotion to all for whom and that which he cared…and he cared deeply.
His devotion to his country always came before personal gain…from his first day in Beast Barracks at West Point…to when he voluntarily resigned as a 3-star Air Force General because he didn’t feel it appropriate for a National Security Advisor to be an active duty officer.
He was devoted to the Presidents he served… Nixon, who he said was a flawed, troubled soul but with a sharp foreign policy mind; Ford, who he believed to be one of the most decent people he had ever met and exactly what the country needed at that time. And then, of course, President Bush 41…who he called “one of his dearest friends and the most prepared person ever for the Presidency.” He was devoted to more than just the individuals…he held the Office of the President in the highest esteem, regardless of political party…serving, as you have heard, on commissions, boards and as an advisor to all Presidents following Bush 41 through President Obama.
His devotion went both ways. Among the staff over the years that he actively mentored, supported and promoted are Directors of the CIA, NSA, Secretaries of State, Defense, National Security Advisors and senior staff in all national security departments and agencies. He could spot talent and wanted to ensure that our country got the very best. He hailed the virtues of government service and never failed to give the most junior of interns his attention, when needed.
Lastly, but most importantly and less known, was his incredible devotion to his family. Bob mentioned previously that Brent was caring for his ailing wife, Jackie, while National Security Advisor. Jackie was basically housebound for 15 years. For those 15 years, Brent prepared virtually all their meals, administered her medicines and comforted her by sleeping on a narrow couch by her bed in their living room. Jackie had been his nurse when he broke his back in pilot training…Brent returned that nursing 10-fold, all while working relentless hours under enormous pressure. Thirteen years later, when his first and only grandchild, Meghan, was born, Brent was there and then continued for the next 8 years to fly or train every weekend to New York to be with his daughter, Karen, and granddaughter, Meghan…truly, the loves of his life. Devotion runs deep in the Scowcroft family. During those 15 years while her mother was ailing, Karen came down frequently to help her father. Then in January 2016, when Brent had his first stroke and moved into Goodwin House, Karen and Meghan became regulars on the planes and trains from New York to DC. For the next four years, they came every weekend to comfort, entertain and brighten his life. I can count on less than 1 hand the times, prior to Covid, they were unable to make it.
All you had to say to him in these last 4 years was “your girls will be here on Saturday” and, even in his waning months, when he could no longer vocalize his thoughts, his huge smile said it all. Karen, Meghan and I were blessed to spend his last few days with him. Between naps, he clung to Karen’s arm and smiled at Meghan for every kiss she gave him on his cheek. Though we weren’t ready, when Karen and Meghan told him they would be alright and he could go to be with his beloved Jackie and dear friends, he waited until they left, then slipped peacefully away.
That is devotion… and Karen and Meghan, he could not have loved you more.
MEDIA & RESOURCES
BRENT SCOWCROFT ORAL HISTORY | THE MILLER CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Read Brent Scowcroft’s interview for the Presidential Oral History Project at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, in November of 1999.
STATECRAFT: REMEMBERING BRENT SCOWCROFT | THE MILLER CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
THE PRESIDENT’S GATEKEEPERS: THE SCOWCROFT AWARD | CCWHIP PRODUCTIONS
Wall Street Journal | Brent Scowcroft, a U.S. National Security Power Broker, Dies at 95
Washington Post | Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to two presidents, dies at 95
New York Times | Brent Scowcroft, a Force on Foreign Policy for 40 Years, Dies at 95
Washington Examiner | Elder statesman and two-time national security adviser Brent Scowcroft dead at 95
Texas A&M Today | Longtime Public Servant Brent Scowcroft Dies
The National Interest | A Tribute To Brent Scowcroft
Washington Post | Brent Scowcroft was, above all, a realist
Atlantic Council | Soldier, scholar, statesman: Remembering General Brent Scowcroft
The Wall Street Journal | Brent Scowcroft, a U.S. National Security Power Broker, Dies at 95
CBS News | Passage: In memoriam
Foreign Policy | Brent Scowcroft, Former U.S. National Security Advisor, Dies at 95
Military Times | Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to 2 presidents, dies
Real Clear Politics | The Brent Scowcroft I Knew
Bloomberg | Brent Scowcroft Never Hated His Enemies
The Boston Globe | Brent Scowcroft: A realist without illusions
Foreign Affairs | The Scowcroft Model
The New York Times | Regrets? Even Brent Scowcroft Had a Few
The Business Times | Brent Scowcroft’s legacy is more relevant than ever right now
Federal News Network | Late Air Force general’s legacy leaves a mark on US national security
The Guardian | Brent Scowcroft obituary