Rescuing the World

The Life and Times of Leo Cherne

By Andrew F. Smith
Foreword by Henry A. Kissinger

Subjects: Biography
Paperback : 9780791453803, 272 pages, August 2002
Hardcover : 9780791453797, 272 pages, August 2002

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Foreword by Henry A. Kissinger


A Note on Sources


1. Setting the Stage

2. Researching America

3. Rescuing the Postwar World

4. Combusting Spontaneously

5. Uncovering Communists

6. Lobbying for Indochina

7. Confronting Genocide

8. Sculpting the World

9. Ransoming Prisoners

10. Guiding Intelligence

11. The Falling Curtain


Selected Biography


A biography of one of America's leading humanitarians who, as an advisor to nine presidents, also had a lasting effect on American foreign policy.


Leo Cherne's life brimmed with paradox and improbability. He was born in the Bronx to a poor, immigrant, Jewish family, and yet rose to the heights of economic and political power in WASP America. A successful entrepreneur and an unofficial advisor to nine presidents, he nevertheless devoted the majority of his time to humanitarian causes, particularly the International Rescue Committee, which he chaired for forty years. From Hungary to Cuba to Cambodia, Cherne traveled across the globe on behalf of political refugees. A consummate networker, he also had the uncanny ability to attract and cultivate talented people before they became prominent, including such figures as John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Patrick Moynihan, Claiborne Pell, Tom Dooley, William Casey, John Whitehead, and Henry A. Kissinger. He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed that although never elected to governmental office, Leo Cherne had more influence on American foreign policy than most elected officials. The underlying theme of his life was that one person, without family contacts or wealthy connections, could make a difference worldwide in political and humanitarian affairs.

Andrew F. Smith is the president of The American Forum for Global Education and teaches at The New School University. He is the author of many books, including The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett and International Conflict and the Media.


"…an engaging biography. " — The Wall Street Journal

"In the Jewish religion, it is said that at any point in time, God preserves the world because there exist ten just men who, without claiming themselves that they are just, give Him a motive for leaving the world intact. Leo Cherne was surely one of those ten just men. " — from the Foreword by Henry A. Kissinger

"Leo Cherne's story reminds us what one man can do—though to do that much, one has to be Leo Cherne. How fortunate he has this biographer. " — William F. Buckley Jr.

"Leo Cherne's life was devoted to helping the uprooted. Their religious affiliation or ethnic origin mattered little to him. All victims of dictatorships found in him an address, an ally, a friend. In his tireless work . .. he brought honor to humanity. " — Elie Wiesel

"A fitting biography of an extraordinary man: Leo Cherne . .. He was a true hero for freedom and the optimism of the human spirit during the long Cold War. " — Steve Forbes

"This book simply but cogently tells the story of one of the twentieth century's least known and yet most influential men. " — Peter F. Drucker