David The Goliath

in Program

By Jim Baird

I didn’t know much about Washington when I first arrived in the summer of 2010. Like many, I had to learn a lot quick. Or at least try to.

That summer the Obama administration was seeking the advice and consent of the Senate to ratify the New Start Treaty. The nuclear weapons treaty had a simple goal — to reduce the amount of nukes pointed at the U.S. from Russia (and vice versa). It allowed for inspectors to go on the ground to verify compliance. It was, by most military and expert accounts, a no brainer. A smart step to reduce a sprawling stockpile of weapons of unequaled power but little modern utility.

Yet, in the state of play in modern Washington, ‘no brainer’ policy still encounters opposition.

But for most, including a diverse coalition of NGOs — from faith groups, to nuclear nonproliferation organizations, to retired military leadership — the purpose and utility of the treaty was clear. Simply put, it was a good deal.

It was in the board rooms and office buildings scattered about the U.S. capitol that I first had the opportunity to meet David Culp. He was a man who knew the room. Pragmatic, dogged, and direct- a lobbyist for the Quakers fighting for peace.

It was said David had forgotten more about Capitol Hill than most lobbyists would ever know. That may not have given him enough credit. David could not only tell you where the Speaker of the House went for breakfast each day — but also what the Speaker ate.

David’s legislative wisdom too was near unmatched. His list of swing vote Senators guided a diverse coalition’s efforts to draw attention to the importance of the New Start Treaty. His insight into the Senate and its at times Byzantine processes played a large role in the treaty’s successful ratification. For me — a kid in my mid-20s working on media strategy, when he spoke I simply took notes. He was the type of person you wanted on your team. The type of person it seemed almost impossible to lose with.

This past weekend, David passed away and with it the world lost a light.

Too often many outside Washington speak to only the ills of the city. David was a shining example of someone that did things the right way. Tough, principled, and effective. Few have had the outsized impact in the arms control community that he had. Few will. And because of all that he did, our troubled little world is a little better off.

Thank you David. You will be missed.

Jim Baird is Director of Communications at the Stimson Center. This post originally appeared on Medium

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