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Remembering Hal Saunders, Founder and Mentor

It is with heavy hearts that all of us at the Sustained Dialogue Institute mourn the death of Harold ‘Hal’ Saunders, our founder, mentor and friend. We unite in honoring a peacemaker whose exemplary life fully expressed the values and ideals of Sustained Dialogue, to which he was so dedicated.

We offer our deepest and most profound condolences to Hal’s wife Carol, his children, and the rest of their families.

Hal’s inspiring global leadership and pursuit of peace and dialogue was always an expression of the best manifestations of statecraft at the highest levels. Through his work in the Middle East, in Russia and elsewhere around the world, in his writing and his promotion of Sustained Dialogue in campuses, and through many other initiatives, he created countless opportunities to make a more peaceful world. But all who knew him were always struck by his matching humility, sincerity, openness and quiet faith. Hal’s was a life lived according to his vision.

Hal dedicated much of his life to government, serving under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, and working on the Kissinger shuttle agreements, the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty as Assistant Secretary for the Near East and South Asia. After leaving government work, Hal continued to live his dedication to peace processes, leading dialogues between Soviets and Americans; Israelis and Palestinians; Indians, Pakistanis, and Kashmiris; Americans and Chinese. It was through all of these dialogues that Hal conceptualized the foundations of the Sustained Dialogue process that has impacted so many of our lives.

In 1999, Hal’s passion for dialogue grew to include campus-based work. He collaborated with students at Princeton University, his beloved alma mater, as they worked together to transform his SD process into the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network. Hal was deeply committed to advancing this work on college campuses throughout the United States and the world, and served as an inspiration for generation after generation of college students. Hal served as the President of the Sustained Dialogue Institute from its founding until 2013, and remained the Chair of the Board through 2015.

The honorable legacy and example that Hal leaves behind offers us and our world an inspiration and a challenge. His life reminds us that it is possible to create a better and more peaceful world through dialogue, whether between individuals, communities or nations. The many examples that surround us remind us of the ways he enriched the lives of all who have had the privilege to be associated with him.

If you would like to share your memories of Hal, we encourage you to do so here. To support Hal’s vision and dedication to a world built on the power of relationships and sustained dialogues, you can give in his honor here.

These past few months several people compiled their remembrances of how Hal’s work has impacted their lives, which we published in a book, Letters To Our Mentor, and sent to him for his 85th birthday. 

Hal inspired each of us to make a positive impact in our communities. He often said, “I believe we have the skills to change the world.” It is with deepest gratitude and heartfelt sadness that we continue the work of upholding this vision of our mentor and friend, Hal Saunders.

We will share more news about memorial plans as they become available. Messages of condolence for the family can be sent to the Sustained Dialogue Institute, 444 N Capitol St NW, Suite 434, Washington, DC, 20001, or here.


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