Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cousin Tony and the Mourning Cloak

On Monday, while Roger and I were out taking pics of butterflies and dragonflies, my father's cousin Tony was buried. When my siblings and I were young, we didn't get to know Tony the way we did the other cousins because he was always out of the country. He worked for the State Department, and spent time in Argentina, Italy, or Brazil. He married Elisa in South America and had twin daughters. We always kept track of what Tony was up to, but we rarely saw him. What we knew was that Tony loved our father, who was his much older cousin. As an adolescent he saw my dad come home a hero from World War II, and he respected and looked up to him always. That was enough for us kids, we automatically loved Tony.

I had a handful of encounters with my dad's cousin. Once in 1987, I met him and his wife in a Washington D.C. hotel lounge for wine and delicious conversation. It's when I learned that he loved to talk about family. He told me stories of my grandmother, who had died before I was born, and for whom I'm named. He told me stories about my father's bravery, stories my father had never shared with us. It was Tony who told me that my father had fought behind enemy lines in the Battle of the Bulge. I realized for someone who had been out of the country so long, Tony had somehow become a grand repository of our family lore.

In 2004, Tony and I struck up an email relationship. He was coordinating the construction of the Freeman family tree with other family members. They were busy tracking down arrival dates of ships from the 1860s. My great-great grandfather was on one of those ships. I was sent photographs of ship manifests, of ancient family gatherings, and gravestones. I loved being included in this detailed account of our shared history. Unfortunately, all of the information and correspondence from that year disappeared with my computer crash of 2005.

All I have left are a few emails from last summer. So, I did a google search on Anthony G. Freeman and found this from the Library of Congress.
ANTHONY G. FREEMAN -- (Senate - July 30, 2003)

[Page: S10256] GPO's PDF


Mr. Hatch: .Mr. President, at the end of this week, Anthony G. Freeman will leave the post of Director of the Washington Office of the International Labor Organization, or ILO, after almost a decade serving this specialized agency of the United Nations in its liaison with the executive and federal branches of the U.S. Government. These last 9 years spent in this important role follow his 33-year career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

In that career, Mr. Freeman represented our country all over the world: in Valencia, Spain and Rome, Italy; in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and La Paz. From 1983 to 1992, he served as Coordinator for International Labor Affairs and the Agency for International Development. In that capacity, he was Special Assistant to three Secretaries of State.

Tony Freeman's professional focus has been advancing the role of freedom of labor around the world, promoting the dignity and safety of workers wherever they toiled. He was a labor specialist who served as labor officer in many of his posts around the world. This experience was developed over three decades, culminating in his last assignment at the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. No one understands better than Tony Freeman that true democracy cannot exist without human rights and neither exist without the freedom of the working man and woman.

Some may not be aware of the importance that American labor has played in U.S. foreign policy through the decades. Some may not appreciate the role that the American worker has played in building alliances with workers around the world, conveying and supporting traditions of freedom--freedom to work and to organize and to be free of oppression--that are an essential aspect of American society. American unions, working through the State Department and working independently, have done great work advancing freedom around the planet, and continue to do so today.

(snip, Orrin Hatch talks about himself here. Ugh)

After 33 years working labor issues at the Department of State, Tony Freeman accepted the position of Director of the Washington Office of the International Labor Organization in late 1994. I first worked closely with Tony in 1995 and 1996, when a misguided congressional initiative threatened to defund U.S. participation in the ILO. It was a time when the ILO needed to make itself relevant to U.S. audiences, particularly Congress. Irving Brown's legacy with the ILO, when we all worked together to fight Soviet communism, was a great historical achievement, but that did not move policy-makers in Washington searching for new roles for international organizations in the post-Cold War era.

I joined with the late senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who, incidentally, did his doctoral dissertation on the ILO, to defend continued U.S. support for this organization. Supporters of the ILO came to our offices, including representatives from the Labor Department, unions and U.S. businesses. The beauty and strength of the ILO is that it is the only tripartite international organization of its type in the world, where workers and employers from all member nations join to address labor questions alongside their governments. We made our case that the ILO's relevance in an era of expanding trade and globalization, as well as spreading transnational challenges like child labor exploitation, was greater than ever.

And we prevailed, and the U.S. continues to play a role in that important body. All of the coordination to preserve that role was organized by Tony Freeman, and today I want to express my personal gratitude for that important work in 1996.

Tony's efforts did not peak then, and he spent the following years raising the ILO's visibility, and its new missions, before new audiences in the U.S. He developed closer ties between the ILO and human rights groups in the U.S. He drew their attention to the basic human right of working people around the world to have a voice in the workplace, and to the work of the ILO to free people trapped in slavery and bondage, including the forced laborers in Burma. He strengthened the common bond between the ILO and organizations and policy makers fighting to end abusive child labor and saw large increases in U.S. funding for the ILO's child labor programs. In addition, Tony Freeman worked tirelessly to gain U.S. ratification of ILO conventions, and, during his tenure at the ILO, he made a signal contribution to the efforts that led to U.S. ratification of Convention No. 176 on Safety and Health in Mines in 2001.

I understand that Tony will be teaching in Washington in the coming years, as well continuing to offer his lifetime of experience and counsel. I am relieved to hear this, because we still need Tony Freeman's experience. He has lived a great life of service to the working man and woman, across all borders, and he has served the American public well. Today, I wish to honor the work of Tony Freeman all these years. I thank him for his 33 years in the State Department. I thank him for the critical leadership he provided the International Labor Organization. I thank him for putting up with all my Irving Brown stories. I thank him for his friendship. Most of all, I wish to thank Tony Freeman for his service to his country.

Of course, I hate that it's Orrin Hatch speaking about someone in my family. I don't know anything about the ILO, I can only hope that it's an organization that really does promote human rights in the workplace. But I do feel that I know a bit more about my father's mysterious cousin Tony. But like all mysteries, I am left wanting to dig around for more.

The photographs, taken Monday, are of a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). The color of the underside of its wings never even hint at the colors of the upperside. So apt and beautiful.

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