Henry Kissinger, the former United States Secretary of State who led the US foreign policy between 1969 and 1977, will forever be associated with the Cold War and relations with the Soviet Union, as well as the end of the American war in Vietnam. He was also instrumental in diplomacy in the Middle East, as well as in some controversial American interventions or support such as the 1973 Chilean military coup or the Argentinian military junta’s “Dirty War”.
Some have gone as far as consider him a war criminal, so his international impact is very strong and comes under mixed reviews, from having won the Nobel Peace Prize to being vilified in many circles.
Let’s have a look at 9 interesting facts you might know about Henry Kissinger.
Henry Kissinger Top Facts
1. He was a ladies’ man
Even though his looks were never the classically handsome type, it appears that Henry Kissinger has always been popular with women. Some of his celebrity girlfriends have included Diane Sawyer, Shirley Maclaine, Liv Ullman, Candice Bergen and Jill St. John. The Playboy bunnies also voted him as the man they’d like to go out on a date with, in 1972.
Of course, Kissinger has been married to Nancy Maginess since 1974, despite the fact that she had called rumours about their marriage “outrageous”.
2. He was born in Germany
Kissinger’s parents were German Jews and he was born in Furth, Bavaria, Germany in 1923, an interesting Henry Kissinger fact. They fled Germany in 1938 as a result of the rise in power of the Nazi party and the subsequent Jewish persecution, first emigrating to London and then eventually to New York.
Despite going to school in the American system and integrating quite well, Kissinger never lost his German accent.
3. His surname was chosen after a spa town
In 1817, Henry Kissinger’s grandfather Meyer Löb decided to change the family surname into a German-sounding one. He picked the Bavarian spa town of Kissingen for inspiration, and that’s how Henry’s surname came about.
4. Kissinger’s official portrait was a controversial release
In 1978, the State Department commissioned a portrait of Henry Kissinger for its gallery and it was Gardner Cox, a Boston-based artist who had successfully painted other Secretaries of State, who got the gig, worth $12,000. However, his painting wasn’t well received at all. Some said it made Kissinger look like dwarf, and that it was all very unflattering. Famously, Cox was told to “fix it”, but said he couldn’t find anything wrong with the portrait. He never received his $12,000, but was offered instead $700 for his expenses, an interesting fact about Henry Kissinger.
J. Anthony Wills was the next artist chosen to paint a replacement portrait, which was eventually accepted. Kissinger joked about the whole episode and even said that Wills’ portrait was “an excellent likeness, swelled head and all”!
5. He is difficult to protect
As a high-ranking figure in the Government, Henry Kissinger and his family had their Secret Service agents protecting them. Agent Dennis McCarthy was assigned to him for some part, and mentioned how Kissinger’s protection was “a real pain” in his memoir, Protecting the President – The Inside Story of a Secret Service Agent.
An example was when Nancy Kissinger wanted to go swimming in Acapulco, despite a warning for sharks. Kissinger allegedly asked the agents to go into the water and guard for sharks, but they refused to do this. The funny compromise apparently was, in McCarthy’s words: “If the sharks come up on this beach, my agents will fight them.”
6. He was once offered “10 million” Chinese women
One of Kissinger’s big missions was trade talks with China and Chairman Mao Zedong. Apparently, in 1973, during a discussion, Mao said they didn’t have “much” to offer but “what we have in excess is women. So if you want them we can give a few of those to you, some tens of thousands.”
Understandably, Kissinger must have thought this was a joke. However, later in the meeting, Mao offered 10 million women, an interesting fact about Henry Kissinger.
Ever the diplomat, Kissinger was forced to address this but simply said “It is such a novel proposition. We will have to study it.”
7. Kissinger was a stellar student
During his university years, Kissinger was very successful. He graduated summa cum laudae from Harvard College in 1950, after writing an undergraduate dissertation of 400 pages! After earning his B.A. in political science, he went on to earn an M.A. and PhD degrees as well, both at Harvard.
It was during his PhD dissertation that Henry Kissinger introduced the concept of legitimacy in international order and agreements. This would go on to influence his conduct in his entire career.
8. He is one of only two living members of Nixon’s Cabinet
Kissinger took office as US National Security Advisor in January 1969 under President Richard Nixon, going on to then serve under President Gerald Ford as well. As Secretary of State, he took office in September 1973.
At 96, he is only one of two surviving Cabinet members from Nixon’s presidency, the other one being George Shultz, who was Secretary of the Treasury and would go on to also become Secretary of State under Reagan’s administration in 1982.
9. His Nobel Peace Prize is questionable
In 1973, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Le Durc Tho, with whom he negotiated the Paris Peace Agreement to end the Vietnam War. Le Durc Tho refused the award claiming that peace was not established, and Kissinger himself was ambivalent about it, not attending the ceremony and donating the prize money to charity. He apparently later offered to return the medal, when the negotiated ceasefire didn’t hold, an interesting Henry Kissinger fact!
Kissinger is a colossus of American foreign policy and an interesting character too. During his enduring career, he left an indelible mark on United States recent history, and continues to influence US politics to this day through connections with the likes of Hillary Clinton. And here you have the top 9 interesting facts about Henry Kissinger!
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