Despite their historic disputes, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have come together this past week in mourning over the loss of the former ambassador to the now nonexistent state of Czechoslovakia. Mrs. Shirley Temple Black, who passed last Monday, February 10th, was the 27th ambassador of the United States to the Baltic state. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says she has always been “number one in the hearts of the Czech people.” Known for her full head of luscious curls and diplomatic prowess, Black was a pivotal force of progress and friendship between the United States and the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia, where she served during the first Bush Administration. Her arrival in Prague coincided with the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe in 1989, and she gracefully supported the end of communism and guided the people in their quest for freedom. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico agrees, “Ms. Temple was a true stateswoman. She knew when to be firm, but most importantly, she knew when to let her humanity and warmth shine through. We will all miss her.”
Commented one Slovakian citizen, “My father tells such stories about Ms. Temple. She was… a great….” But he was unable to go on. Perhaps his father told him stories of the time Ambassador Temple stepped in to intercede on behalf of the state’s farmers and forged the great Agricultural Agreement of 1991. Or maybe he was one of the children that Ms. Temple would give toys to, toys she had carved herself, as she wandered through the cities and towns to “see the people she was responsible for,” in her own words, taken from a telegram she sent to President Bush during her time in office. She was a powerful advocate for human rights and the spirit of democracy, and did all of that difficult work with a spring in her step and a song in her heart. She became so beloved by her humanitarian and political talent that a sweet, uncontroversial non-alcoholic cocktail was named after her.
In her old age, Black recounted a recurring regret that she did not get back into acting, which apparently was a hobby of hers in her youth. Regardless, her legacy will live on. Apparently this legacy also includes children’s movies. But she will be remembered for her hand in the relations between countries who are often at odds, and the state of US relations with both the Czech Republic and Slovakia today. Her gift of diplomacy will live on in the spirit of American foreign policy for years to come.