Tribute from Larry Diamond to Francis Fukuyama

Tribute from Larry Diamond at the Democracy Service Medal Presentation to Francis Fukuyama

Washington, D.C.

Presentation of the Democracy Service Medal to Francis Fukuyama from National Endowment for Democracy on Vimeo.

I am in a natural but also awkward position here, because in a way I represent the bridge between where Frank Fukuyama has been and where he is going.  I feel a bit guilty that our Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University has lured Frank away to take up a new endowed chair as the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.  Guilty, not only because the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies is such a wonderful institution—with which we at the Journal and the NED have had warm, cooperative relations for more than two decades—but also because Frank has been such a dynamic, influential, and sober voice here in Washington on issues of political and economic development and American foreign policy.  Yet, I know he will not cease to be that, or to be present frequently in Washington for these debates.  All I can say from personal experience, Frank, is:  Welcome to the club of frequent flyers travelling from the San Francisco Bay Area to Washington, Dulles.

I also know from many years of personal experience what a profound intellectual and a wonderful human being NED is losing from the Board, SAIS is losing from its faculty, and Stanford is gaining.  As everyone here is keenly aware, Frank is a truly original and indeed seminal thinker.  His scholarship has been wide-ranging but also densely interconnected.  His writings on global political developments and models post cold-war, on social trust and its contributions to development, on state-building, economic development, democracy promotion, and so much more have all been characterized by an amazing propensity for clarity of theoretical argument and for thinking outside of established categories and assumptions, and yet also a prodigious capacity for gathering and mobilizing evidence.  Few scholars in the world can move across regions as gracefully and trenchantly as Frank does, with his ability to speak in impressive scholarly depth about East Asia or Latin America—or the intricacies of political culture and state-building in Papua New Guinea, where he has recently been doing field research.  I believe that the work Frank is doing now on how states and political systems form and evolve will represent the most important contribution to our basic theorizing about political development since Sam Huntington’s trail-blazing work in the 1960s and early 70s.  And I think there is no other political sociologist—and that is, with admiration, what I would call Frank—who more closely approaches our late friend Seymour Martin Lipset in range of scholarly knowledge and achievement and in depth of original insights than Frank.

I think it is no accident that Frank’s politics, like Sam’s and Marty’s, have tended toward the pragmatic center and also been hard to predict.  Like the two of them, his loyalty has not been to a party or ideology but to the evidence and realities, weighed against a certain core of values—not least the ones that define the National Endowment for Democracy.   That Frank was a student of Huntington’s at Harvard and a colleague of Marty’s at George Mason—and personally close to both of them until their deaths in recent years—underscores how much he lies at a unique and irreplaceable intersection of intellectual pathways and traditions.  I know for a fact, as someone who was close to Marty, that there was no colleague for whom he had greater intellectual admiration than Frank.

In this respect, and many more, we have been extremely fortunate to have had Frank as a member of the Journal editorial board for the majority of our years.  It is not just that Frank is full of ideas and sage advice, or that he is widely connected to so many issues and authors.  It is also that he is the model of a great colleague:   Wise in his judgment, generous with his time, innovative in his ideas, constructive in his criticism, and disarmingly modest for someone so accomplished.  And oh yes, funny and irreverent as well.  I am sure this is also why he has been such a widely popular and admired professor at SAIS. 

Frank, thank you for your service to the Journal, the NED, and the broader community of democratic scholarship and ideas.  It is a thrill to know that you will soon be joining us at Stanford, and I am sure it is a comfort to this audience to know that you will continue to be a presence here in Washington as well.