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Thank you, Sir Arthur. . . Goodbye from Washington, D.C.
by Dr. Patrick Mendis

When Sir Arthur said his Final Goodbye from Colombo in the early hours of March 19 at Colombo’s Apollo Hospital, his office sent me the news. Within hours, that news reached every corner of the world, THANKS to his invention of the communication satellite in 1945.

Sir Arthur was a remarkable human personality. He replied to every correspondence and engaged with anyone who wrote to him. Two weeks ago, he sent me a long letter with four photos of his family and staff. As always, he was funny, insightful, and futuristic.

I first met Sir Arthur while I was an undergraduate student at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. When I visited him with my family, Sir Arthur gave a lecture on Jupiter and its moons. Our young children – Gamini and Samantha – were fascinated by the animated NASA photos on Sir Arthur’s computer screen. He was enthusiastic in talking to our children about other planets and extraterrestrial life.

In the mid-1990s, I had the privilege to visit him with my American mentor, Ambassador Harlan Cleveland, as part of the World Academy tour in Asia. Ambassador Cleveland was then the President of the World Academy of Art and Science, in which Sir Arthur has been a Fellow. In 2003, Ambassador Ronald Lehman and I came to his residence to produce a video of Sir Arthur for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Sir Arthur had always been very accommodative, gracious, and kindhearted.

Last summer when I was in Sri Lanka to attend my mother’s funeral, I had "teatime" with Sir Arthur at his residence. We talked about our families and mutual friends – Ambassadors Lehman, Cleveland, Jayantha Dhanapala, and Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne. When his brother called from England, I wanted to excuse myself but he insisted me to stay. He continued to look at my book and his Foreword (www.patrickmendis.com). He said that "Glocalization" in my title is an "ugly" word. I promised that I would change it in the next edition.  When I visited Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami tragedy, he encouraged me to write this book after reading the e-book version.  At his suggestion, I donated its proceeds to Sarvodaya and other tsunami projects and scholarships, including a Peace Prize in Sri Lanka.

For young and old, Sir Arthur has been inspirational. He inspired a generation of astronauts, scientists, and futurists. Author of more than 100 books, Sir Arthur is most famous for his "2001: A Space Odyssey" movie directed by Stanly Kubrick. With all his accomplishments, when he was asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, " I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter, and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer – one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well." Indeed, he has been a prolific writer and a mind expander.

Just before his 90th Birthday on December 16, 2007, his office shared the link to Sir Arthur’s YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qLdeEjdbWE>.  At the end of his remarks, Sir Arthur said, "This is Arthur Clarke, saying Thank You and Goodbye from Colombo!" As a Sri Lankan living in the United States, I say from Washington, "Thank You Sir Arthur and Goodbye. You Will Always be in My Heart. Thank You." ~ Patrick.

Dr. Mendis is vice president of academic affairs at the Osgood Center for International Studies and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University's Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.  E-mail: patrickmendis@post.harvard.edu

 

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