by: Danny Warner
Imagine you are an American tourist walking with your wife in Carouge looking at a map trying to figure out where you are and where you want to go. Your wife asks a stranger for directions in poor French with a heavy American accent. The stranger replies in English. You then start an intense conversation with him. The stranger spontaneously asks you and your wife to his home for dinner and then also invites your son who lives in Geneva. Your son becomes a good friend of the stranger. Your son becomes part of a large circle of friends of the stranger. Is this story unusual? Not at all. This was a large part of Andy the stranger in the story’s life, spontaneously making friends and connecting people.
Andy was a great networking and convenor. He started clubs – I once asked him how many and he couldn’t give me the exact answer. The Adam Smith Club, the Burlamaqui Society, the Overseas American Academy, the exclusive Bizzou Group are only a few alongside the better known American Citizens Abroad, Democrats Overseas and many others.
His generosity was enormous, and sometimes embarrassing. At the beginning of each Burlamaqui meeting people introduce themselves. Andy would always find something more laudatory to add to the modest introductions. He loved convening and organizing. Sitting around over a glass of wine one day, he mentioned the famous Genevese American Albert Gallatin’s 250th birthday coming up. No sooner said then done; we organized an all day conference on Gallatin, a reception with the Swiss Ambassador in Geneva, and a gala dinner with over 200 people.
Last Friday I walked into the Café Cuba, a favorite hangout of Andy and his friends for Friday lunches. I looked at the corner table where our group would regularly meet. I remembered how Andy would invariably bring along someone we didn’t know. Who was the new person? Simply an FOA, a friend of Andy’s.
How many FOA’s are there in the world? How many people did Andy help connect? How many people did he help get jobs? We will never be able to count them all. What do they all have in common? Many are Americans – Democrats and Republicans I should add – but they come from all over the world.
FOAs have several things in common. They are all dedicated to the cause of peace and justice in the world. They are all cosmopolitan, outside national, ethnic, religious or racial barriers. (Some gender criticism here of the Burlamaqui Society is merited.) Because of those commonalities, and the fortunate experience of having met Andy, we, they are all FOAs.
The outpouring of love and respect for Andy these days is not by accident. He reached out to so many people in so many different ways. In a sense, his greatest creation, besides his adoring family, is the informal worldwide network of FOA’s. No exams to enter like the Naval Academy, no selection process like for Rhodes Scholars, no dues to pay, no secret handshakes, no necessity of being an American or member of a political party. To be an FOA is just to love Andy, and to be sympathetic to the many causes he believed in, to be part of his enormous network.
Many clubs that Andy started are no longer functioning. The FOAs will continue. The network will grow; the relationships he started will expand.
Thank you Andy for connecting us, for convening us, for hosting us with Chantal, for informing us, for provoking us, for e-mailing us; our eternal gratitude for bringing us together and to Chantal for being such an important pillar for Andy and all of us.
Long live the FOAs. He who brought us together will always be an important thread that binds us together and will always bind us to him.