Roger Simon says it best, in his moving tribute to his friend, Ron Silver — who died this weekend after a long fight with cancer.
There’s a note I feel compelled to add, seconding what Roger has to say about Ron’s courage.
There were only a few occasions on which I met Ron. They all had to do with his work on a movie he made in 2005 about the UN, Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60. Ron was first and foremost an artist, an actor. As such, he might have settled for the easy, self-serving pose of most celebrities who take an interest in the UN and go on to become uncritical promoters of its programs and projects, however flawed. Ron thought deeper than that. He did serious homework, and asked real questions — about genocide in Rwanda and Srebenica, about the U.N.’s failures to uphold human rights, or live up to the high ideals in its charter. He concluded that in the interest of humanity, what the UN desperately needed was not another helping of celebrity advertising, but real reform.
So, Ron made a movie about it, narrating Broken Promises, and serving along with David Bossie as executive producer. I met him while he was filming in New York. After a formal interview in midtown, we took a walk together to his next appointment, several blocks away. As we walked, he kept right on asking questions — What had gone so wrong at the UN? What kind of change was most urgently needed? He wasn’t interested in Hollywood do-good fluff. He was interested in the truth. Instead of trying to buff up the “image”of the institution, he was trying to protect the principles and people the UN was meant to serve.
That took a rare mix of intellect and courage. Ron Silver played many roles in shows that were more widely watched. My window on Ron is that he didn’t have to make Broken Promises, but he chose to — keeping faith with his own true depth of character.