Esther Coopersmith shaped history. A skilled diplomat, committed advocate, and genuine bridge-builder, she helped forge a ground-breaking peace accord and energetically strengthened international organizations dedicated to human equality. She was a dedicated public servant and legendary hostess. And as Jill and I knew firsthand, she was a wonderful friend.

Growing up in Wisconsin and the child of immigrants, Esther’s character was forged by the values of decency and hard work. She deeply understood the power of bringing people together for the common good; often, she did that literally around her dinner table. She dedicated her considerable diplomacy skills to the work of peace, supporting the Camp David Accords and working to foster dialogue and understanding between people of different cultures and faiths, especially in the Middle East. For that, she was the second woman to receive the United Nations Peace Prize.

Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, Esther worked tirelessly to advance women’s rights, including as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations and as an advisor to the U.S. Commission to the United Nations Status of Women Commission. She remained committed to the cause of building peace and understanding until the very end, joining Jill this past summer in Paris to mark the United States’ reentry into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

When Esther believed in something – or someone – she would often go to great lengths to show her support. I saw this up close as a 29-year-old candidate for Senate. Esther was one of my early boosters, and her belief in me meant the world. Over the years, our conversations inspired, challenged, delighted, and energized me.

Jill and I are keeping Esther’s family—including her four children and eight grandchildren—close to our hearts. We will miss her dearly.


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