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Martin Manning, An Appreciation

Remarks by Departmentof State Judicial Liaison John Jasik at the Memorial Event for Martin J. Manning – April 17, 2019

Martin Manning with fellow IIP librarians. Martin Manning with fellow IIP librarians. Seated: Lynne Scheib;
Standing: Vivian Stahl, Anita Green, Joan Taylor;
Back: Martin Manning
(photo courtesy of Lynne Scheib)

It is my honor and privilege to welcome the Manning family to the United States Department of State Headquarters. Many of you have traveled a considerable distance to honor and remember your cherished family member today. A special welcome also to Marty’s many friends and colleagues from a period that spans well over forty years. We are very happy you are here to join us in remembering Marty’s life and many contributions to our nation. I met a number of you at Marty’s memorial Mass a few weeks ago and look forward to renewing our acquaintance after our formal remembrance this morning. Always remember that Marty was family to us, too. Many of the people in this room go back a long way with Marty. Personally, I knew him for about forty years. There is a special bond among us in the relatively small public diplomacy community that is really unique in the Department of State. Our clearly defined mission brings us together both personally and professionally. It is indeed a family environment. We do not forget our people after they have left us – or their families who survive them – ever. We are with you and remain a phone call or e-mail away. I could not be more serious about this. I knew Marty for over four decades. You have our numbers – use them whenever you see fit.

Marty was the quintessential public servant. Although he started out with short tenures in other federal agencies, he found his home – his true calling – his vocation, so to speak, in the United States Information Agency and the United States Department of State. Marty served his country as librarian, researcher, historian, public diplomacy practitioner – a true jack-of-all-trades. He possessed an almost pathological intellectual curiosity. Marty very rapidly became the “go-to” guy in the public diplomacy sphere. If you needed some obscure piece of paper from when Edward R. Murrow was the Director of the U.S. Information Agency during the Kennedy administration, Marty was your one – and only – resource person. His reputation grew over the decades – he was a published author and he was a contributor to many articles, publications, and books on ALL aspects of public diplomacy, the science of propaganda, and Soviet disinformation. You name it in our field of endeavor – he knew it and did it. Should anyone have had a query of any kind, Marty usually knew the answer or could find it quickly. He would then provide an excruciatingly detailed response – sometimes with footnotes. I remember once not too long ago casually asking Marty about getting the rights to a documentary film: almost immediately, he was on the horn to the directors, the publicists, the Sundance Film Festival people – you name it. I would not have been surprised if he tried to directly contact Robert Redford of Sundance fame. Anyway, I had a comprehensive response – with options – very, very quickly.

Marty was revered and respected in a number of different professional communities – especially those pertaining to public diplomacy, history, and research. I posted an obituary in memory of Marty on my Facebook page the day he passed away. The responses that I received from professionals in a number of disciplines were almost immediate, sincere, and highly respectful of Marty’s expertise in numerous areas of specialization. Marty was, in many ways, a complex guy, but he was beloved by his colleagues for his friendly and warm nature and his perpetual willingness to provide support and assistance. Marty was especially revered by our colleagues on the lower scale of the Civil Service rank structure – he treated everyone the same – from the big shots to the custodial staff – with kindness, decency, and respect – he was everyone’s pal, and everyone loved him. Marty never really changed throughout his professional career – he was the same regular guy – with that almost incomprehensible Boston dialect. He had a constant thirst for knowledge and always – always – sought to enhance his expertise in numerous fields of endeavor. He was the best buddy and colleague one could have asked for. Marty would often visit me in my office over the years – two public diplomacy dinosaurs chewing the fat and telling war stories. I relish those moments and they will always comprise my fondest memories of my friend.

Marty was also indeed renaissance man – really! I know he would hate to hear me say this out loud, but he was. In addition to his numerous professional interests, and areas of expertise, Marty loved Broadway musicals and most especially, opera – and he really knew his stuff about both of these genres. For many, many years, he was a judge in the Maryland History Day scholastic competition. Marty could also sing – very, very well. He was a tenor for a Virginia-based group known as the Bull Run Troubadours – they sang barbershop-quartet songs and they are great. They sang in beautiful multi-part harmony at Marty’s memorial Mass – Amazing Grace and an old Irish poem for the departed: everyone in attendance loved it. I spoke to a number of the group members after the Mass; they revered Marty and will miss him terribly. Marty really enjoyed his times with the group – rehearsals as well as performances: he spoke to me about it often. It gave him great joy and satisfaction. So yes, buddy, like it or not, you fit into the renaissance-man category.

Let’s talk briefly about Marty, the family man. Marty was absolutely and positively fully and unequivocally devoted and dedicated to his family – his daughters and the Manning clan of New England (Marty made frequent trips to New England to visit family and refresh that Boston dialect). Going way back, Marty was extremely close to his Mom, a WWII veteran, and also with his Dad, a Boston police officer. He was a loving and devoted father, brother, and uncle – an especially proud uncle who loved the younger Mannings so very much – I am so glad they are here with us today to see the high esteem in which their beloved uncle is held by so many. I assure you that everyone here today and many others will all sorely miss your uncle – he was one of the good guys. I know that all of the Mannings here today will have their own unique and special memories of Marty that will never fade.

Marty did not like being sick – at all. He told me once in confidence that his illness was a “big pain in the ass.” It interfered with his professional and personal agenda – this he did not like – at all. But he dealt with it as best he could – he would show off that medical apparatus that was attached to him from time to time as a badge of honor and also gave many of us an in-depth look at someone struggling with cancer with dignity and grace. Marty’s handling and acceptance of his illness was a lesson to us all. He worked and worked well – same old Marty – until he was physically incapable of doing so. His illness interfered with his retirement plans – he really did not want to pack it in just yet. He was happy in his work, as always, and continued to do his job well despite the limitations caused by his failing health. He finally realized that things were not going well for him at all health wise and he decided to retire after nearly 45 years of distinguished and dedicated service to the country.

On February 28, the effective date of Marty’s retirement, Chandley McDonald and I, two of Marty’s oldest friends and colleagues, visited Marty at his home in Northern Virginia. We were graciously welcomed to the home by Marty’s daughter Anna. We were there to personally thank Marty, first of all, for being such a good friend to us for so many years, but also to officially recognize his many years of public service on behalf of the leadership of the Department of State. Although Marty could not speak, he was alert, recognized us, and heard us. We brought with us a framed Career Achievement Award signed by the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, which commended Marty for his decades of pubic service that had a significant impact on peoples the world over. It was really apparent to us that Marty was in the final hours of his life. I held the award so Marty could see it and Chandley read the citation from the Secretary of State. We spent a few more minutes with Marty to say a final goodbye to our longtime buddy and professional colleague. Marty’s suffering ended and he passed away shortly after we left his home. It was the saddest moment of my nearly half-century of public service and will stick with me until the end of my days.

In closing, what can one say bout a friend that has left us all too soon? I can think of three short words: “a good man.” Marty Manning was a good may and lived his life of service of and support for his family, friends, colleagues, and country. He was indeed a patriot. He was also a devout Catholic who did his best to live his faith every day. This was indeed a good man who lived a good life. We loved him, and will miss him, and will always, always, remember him.

Thank you all for honoring us with your presence today.

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2 comments to Martin Manning, An Appreciation

  • Michael Schneider

    Without Martin, a good deal of the official papers and records of USIA would likely have been lost or misplaced. Without Martin, countless researchers wouldn’t have found needed documents nor made contacts with officials and others in the PD coummunity. He was our guide and beloved colleague, irreplaceable.

  • Mary Ann V. Gamble

    A beautiful tribute, John. Thank you so much for your many years of service to our country, and for your kindness as well.