Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Dies at 100

German-born American diplomat, presidential adviser, and academic Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under two presidents and significantly impacted U.S. foreign policy for decades, died at 100 on Wednesday. 

Kissinger Associates issued a statement saying Kissinger died Wednesday at his Connecticut home.

Kissinger was controversial and revered, condemned by critics as a master manipulator, and praised by supporters as a brilliant strategist. He pioneered the policy of passivity with the Soviet Union. He started a reconciliation with China and won the Nobel Prize in 1973 for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords, ending the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Some of Kissinger’s policies remain controversial. In 2002, journalist Seymour Hersh claimed, “The dark side of Henry Kissinger is very, very dark.”

Even Kissinger’s appearance seemed opposite to his social life. He was bespectacled, portly, had a heavy accent, and didn’t fit the Hollywood good look, but he dated several celebrities.  

He once said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

He was familiar with consistently being in charge. “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full,” he told The New York Times in 1969.

He maintained his influence globally long after leaving public life, evidenced recently by his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China in July.

The Chinese leader greeted Kissinger with respect. The former diplomat had only celebrated his 100th birthday two months prior.

“The Chinese people never forget their old friends and Sino-U.S. relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger,” said Xi at the Time.

Kissinger was crucial in normalizing diplomatic ties between China and the U.S. under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

He told Time magazine in 1980, “The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself.”

Kissinger is survived by his two children, Elizabeth and David, from his first marriage and his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1974.

Henry Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, on May 27, 1923, and as a child was known for his intelligence.

“Henry Kissinger grew up with that mix of ego and insecurity that comes from being the smartest kid in the class,” wrote Isaacson. “From really knowing that you’re more awesomely intelligent than anybody else but also being the guy who’d gotten beaten up because he was Jewish.”

Kissinger, along with his younger brother, Walter, and his parents, fled from the Nazis and arrived in 1938 in New York from London when Henry was 15.

After attending the City College of New York, Kissinger served in the military and became a U.S. citizen, then enrolled in Harvard, earning his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D.

Kissinger then joined the faculty at Harvard, where he became an expert in international relations and was an adviser to government agencies under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Under President Nixon in 1969, he was appointed national security adviser.

Kissinger, as head of the National Security Council, wielded unusually high power for the office and had a significant hand in crafting and then executing U.S. foreign policy, which essentially circumvented then-Secretary of State William Rogers.

A solid proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger pushed Nixon to use a realistic strategy toward engagement with China and the Soviet Union.

He was controversial, however, with his involvement in the conflict in Vietnam, including the bombing of Laos and Cambodia.

Kissinger began secret talks with South and North Vietnam in 1973 and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords to end the U.S. military’s direct involvement in Vietnam and end the war.

Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973

Although the cease-fire did not last, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 alongside his North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho. Kissinger accepted the prize “with humility,” although the Vietnamese revolutionary declined to accept his award since the agreement didn’t yield any lasting peace.

Late author Christopher Hitchens accused Kissinger of supporting the September 1973 coup to remove Chilean Marxist President Salvador Allende in his book, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” which paved the way for the totalitarian regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

Nixon appointed Kissinger secretary of state on September 22, 1973, a role he maintained under Ford after Nixon’s resignation in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

When Ford failed to win re-election in 1976, Kissinger left the political arena and returned to academia at Georgetown’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

He also founded Kissinger Associates, his international consulting firm, and was a director on several nonprofit and corporate boards.

Kissinger also wrote several books on public policy and three memoirs.

In one of his books, 1982’s “Years of Upheaval,” he described what he believed his role to be. “Statesman creates; ordinary leaders consume. The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator.”