“If you’re not a socialist/liberal/radical at the age of 20, you haven’t got a heart. If you’re still one at 40, you haven’t got a head,” the cliché goes.
But there’s an exception to every rule.
Born to Jewish immigrant parents, he was a longtime aide to Hubert Humphrey during the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. An accomplished lawyer whose name was on the smoked glass at the great firm Fried, Frank, he was asked by Jimmy Carter to lead the talks to bring the Soviet Union and some of its satellites into compliance with the Helsinki human-rights accords. This seems almost quaint now, but the talks in Madrid, where he led the American delegation, were an important diplomatic forum for confronting the Soviets, one of the major avenues for cataloguing and confronting their abuse of liberty. Like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Kampelman was an eloquent and fearless voice for human rights.
A leading member of a generation of Cold War liberals, Kampelman was prepared to work on a bipartisan basis on issues of foreign policy and national security.
“President Reagan asked Kampelman to lead arms control talks with the Soviets that led to the START agreements cutting nuclear weapons,” writes Cooper:
He began as a conscientious objector, so much so that he had a deferment not during Vietnam or Korea but during World War II–the Good War, the one that helped save the Jewish people from extermination. As part of his “CO” status, he went to the University of Minnesota where he participated in tests where he was voluntarily subjected to near starvation. And it’s in Minnesota where he found a job with Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey that Kampelman’s pacifism faded and he came to see the merits of a strong defense–a position that echoed that of Humphrey himself and the Democrats of a bygone era like the late Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the senator from Washington and a leading voice for what was called guns and butter.
“For the rest, of us he’s a role model on how to manage our own political evolutions,” writes Cooper, recommending the bipartisan tribute when he was awarded the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2008 Democracy Service Medal.