Obama remembers Holbrooke as 'leading light' of American diplomats

President Obama remembered Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as someone who "served his country until his final moments."

Obama, speaking at a memorial for Holbrooke, who died earlier this month, praised the career ambassador, whom Obama said possessed "a hard-headed, clear-eyed realism about how the world works."

"He was not naive," Obama said. "But he also believed that America has a unique responsibility in the course of human events."

Before he died, Holbrooke served as Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The president remembered his first meeting with Holbrooke at the presidential transition headquarters in Chicago, where Holbrooke "teared up" when discussing restoring America's standing in the world.

"It was clear Richard was not comfortable on the sidelines," Obama said. "He belonged in the arena."

The president praised the staff Holbrooke put together and charged them to "stay in public service."

"Serve your country," Obama told them. "Seek the peace that your mentor so ardently sought."

The president announced the creation of the Richard C. Holbrooke Award for excellence in American diplomacy.

Noting that Holbrooke began his career of service at the request of President Kennedy, Obama said Holbrooke "bore the burden to assure the survival and success of liberty."

"Richard is gone now, but we carry with us his thirst to know, to grasp and to heal the world around him," Obama said.