Press Release

March, 1998
CONTACT: Tania Vitvitsky, Sabre Foundation (617) 868-3510


With strong support from the United States Information Agency (USIA), Peace Corps, members of the US Congress, and the White House, the Sabre Foundation of Cambridge, Mass., the world's largest distributor of books to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, launched its Michael W. Christian Program for Africa at a gala dinner held in Washington D.C. this month.

Important figures of the diplomatic corps, members of Congress, and the Washington legal establishment constituted the dinner committee, including Senators Edward Kennedy and Richard Lugar, Representatives Benjamin Gilman, Tom Lantos, and Thomas Petri, former US Ambassador to Kenya Smith Hempstone, former Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman, Wesley Williams, and Nathaniel Speights. The late Michael W. Christian, Harvard Law School alumnus, former Sabre board member and president of the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company, served as assistant legal secretary of the East African Common Services Organization and is distinguished as the first American to appear before the courts of the then East African Federation of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The evening's festivities were opened by Kenneth G. Bartels, President of the Sabre Foundation, who read a letter from President Bill Clinton commemorating the event and congratulating Sabre on its work in helping to build the educational future of young people in Africa.

In addition, Sabre has received a major grant for a program in South Africa to support the country's technikons and Historically Black Universities (HBUs), with particular focus on the HBU law libraries. During the apartheid era, the HBUs received one dollar of funding from the government for every ten dollars spent on the Historically White Universities. Sabre also has identified a partner in Liberia to set up a project which would help restock the war-ravaged library at the University of Liberia, of which pictures were displayed at the dinner.

Principal guest speakers of the evening were Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, USIA Director Joseph Duffey, and Peace Corps Director Mark D. Gearan. Preceding these, Congressman Gilman, chair of the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives, addressed the assembled guests, noting that for three years authorization legislation has encouraged USIA to restore book programs to its base budget. USIA Director Duffey, congratulating Sabre on its initiative and innovation in its book donation and information technology programs, announced that his agency planned to continue its important cooperation with Sabre. .

Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan spoke of his agency's longstanding relationship with Sabre which has helped both organizations benefit people in many countries around the world, including 18 countries in Africa. And as the senior member of the African diplomatic corps present, Ambassador Dunstan W. Kamana of Zambia also congratulated Sabre on its book donation programs in Africa, stressing the continued need for such work.

Closing the evening's formal program with a personal tribute, Supreme Court Associate Justice Breyer spoke eloquently of the late Michael W. Christian and his dedication to Africa and the many civic, cultural, and medical institutions and organizations which he served as director or trustee. Many of those who spoke after Justice Breyer, including Anthea Christian, wife of the late Michael Christian, also testified to Christian's exuberance and love for life.

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