Thirty-six years ago Iranians stormed the American Embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage over the next 444 days. When the Iranians stormed the Embassy, a small number of Americans were able to escape and four days later they contacted Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. The Americans were hiding in Tehran but felt that they soon might be discovered. Few people during their lifetime ever have an opportunity to save someone else never mind save six people. Ambassador Ken Taylor placed himself at great risk and sheltered the six Americans for the next 79 days in Tehran. Tehran during the revolution became a lawless city and anyone going against the revolution was at risk. Ambassador Ken Taylor like so many true heroes always downplayed the danger he faced. Modest to a fault he once said, “the consequences, I just didn’t dwell on.”
Last week, this valiant man, the best of Canada and her diplomatic service passed away. But besides offering sanctuary to the Americans, he provided reconnaissance, information and planning for the raid that would later become known as Operation Eagle Claw. President Jimmy Carter later said that “Ambassador Ken Taylor became our greatest asset. He was our man in Tehran.”
On June 16, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented Ambassador Ken Taylor with the Congressional Gold Medal and stated that “it’s my great honor to present the medal to Kenneth Taylor whose valor, ingenuity, and steady nerves made possible this one happy chapter in the agony of those 444 days of the hostage crisis.”
While many people know of this event in history because of the exciting Hollywood movie Argo, that movie as with many great movies takes liberties with the historical events that took place. A more realistic version of the events that took place can be viewed in the documentary entitled, Our Man in Tehran. Whatever movie version someone watches, the important thing is to honor the bravery of Ambassador Taylor and his wife and remember that thirty-six years ago our neighbor to the north stepped up and one of her diplomats not only provided sanctuary for six Americans but provided Canadian passports so that they could escape from Tehran. One neighbor looking out for the other and asking for nothing in return. That was Ken Taylor and Canada. Thanks to both for showing political courage and bravery. Taylor’s valiant act should never be forgotten.