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Julia and Will Taft at the wedding of their daughter, Julie, to Christof Putzel.

Photo courtesy of Taft Family.

From the Preface:


Her husband, Will, said it best in saying good-bye.

“One picture: Julia is leaving for work in the morning. Hanging about her is a pocketbook that is never completely closed, a Kenyan bag crammed full of e-mails and papers, and a briefcase. In her hand, she often has a coffee cake, or some sweet thing to share with her office. Thus burdened, she somehow manages to get the front door open, turns around to give me a kiss and saying, ‘I’m off to save the world!’ is gone.

“‘I’m off to save the world.’ She says it with a smile, and her tone is light-hearted. But Julia means it, too. She is happy. It’s her life’s work.”

Julia and Will had been married for 33 years. During that time, Julia Vadala Taft became one of the country’s top humanitarian relief experts, a friend and ally of the world’s most impoverished people. Starting in 1975, when she directed the Indochina refugee task force, Julia essentially invented the way the United States government responds to natural and man-made disasters around the world, demanding basic rights for those whose lives are turned upside down by civil war, famine, religious persecution, earthquakes, floods and insect infestations.

Julia, whose career spanned the administrations of six presidents, died of colon cancer on March 15, 2008. She left a legacy of strategic vision and decisive leadership that will be celebrated for generations to come. “Julia was an image of American openness and generosity,” said former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a friend and colleague for more than three decades. “Her professional life was committed to people trying to get by on a dollar a day, those who are hungry, without clean water, without medicine, without homes.”
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