Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor passed away yesterday, October 16, 2015.
He was the Ambassador to Iran who sheltered six members of the U.S. Embassy staff during the Iranian revolution and arranged for their safe return to the United States.
Rip Mason, chairman of the board for LegalShield, was Ambassador Taylor’s attorney and close friend. Mr. Mason has penned a brief salute to Ambassador Taylor to help us all remember the Ambassadors courage and service.
On November 4, 1979 the nation was stunned as Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 US personnel and Marine guards hostage. A frustrated American public watched in desperation as the embassy staff were paraded shamelessly for the benefit of the international press. The mood of the country, not unlike the mood of today, was one of ineptness, ineffective intelligence support and absence of political will.
Despite the largest military and most sophisticated weapons systems in the world, the Carter administration was powerless.Four days later ABC News initiated the nightly broadcast, which would soon be known as Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel.
American reporters were expelled from Iran and Canadian reporter Peter Jennings and others provided daily reports from Tehran. Many of us watched with mounting frustration as Koppel opened each evening with the daily count of the days that the hostages were being held.
Unbeknownst to the American public, in a selfless act and at incredible personal risk to himself and his family, Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador to Iran, along with his colleague John Sheardown, sheltered six members of the U.S. Embassy staff in their personal residences. Ambassador Taylor welcomed the U.S. representatives spontaneously and without hesitation before consulting his government.
Ultimately, the CIA was made aware of the circumstances and worked closely with Ambassador Taylor to plot the ruse loosely described in the 2013 movie Argo.
After sheltering the U.S. diplomats in his home for nearly three months, Ken Taylor and his wife Pat personally purchased the plane tickets for their escape from Iran.
On January 29, 1980, America woke to learn that six members of the U.S. Embassy had miraculously escaped due to the extraordinary friendship and heroism of Ambassador Taylor and Sheardown.
Spontaneous demonstrations of thanks broke out across the United States. Canadian flags were flown everywhere. Canadians could not pay for drinks in New York and in other cities. Congress bestowed our highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal on Ambassador Taylor. An honor shared only with four non-Americans including Winston Churchill.
Keys to the City were presented to Taylor in New York, Los Angles and 10 other cities.Regrettably, the understanding of these events enjoyed by most Americans is based upon Argo, which fails to appropriately acknowledge the raw courage and daring of Ken Taylor and the full-throated support of the Canadian government.
Taylor’s bravery provided a moment of immense national pride and celebration when our country needed it the most.
With Ken’s passing today we say farewell to a true friend and man of courage. Thank you Canada for sharing him with us. Perhaps Canadian flags will once again appear in homage to a truly great man.