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
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." ~
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: