Samantha Power: Joe Biden’s Nomination for USAID

Published on 27 January 2021 at 11:22

Samantha Power has been nominated by President Joe Biden to lead the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This is the lead organization overseeing US humanitarian aid around the world. This is a role suited perfectly to human rights advocate Power who previously held the role of US Ambassador to the United Nations. Samantha Power’s Irish connections are true and strong. It is likely this connection will play an important role in the relationship between Power and Biden in the new administration.


Power was born in London to Irish parents and moved to Dublin at a very young age. Her mother and father both had medical backgrounds practicing medicine and dentistry respectively. In her memoir “The Education of an Idealist”  Power speaks fondly of her childhood in Ireland recounting memories of getting lost in detective books and singing traditional songs driving on country roads. 


Her parents separated and her mother was granted custody when she  was eight years old. This split has resulted in her mother bringing Power and her younger brother to the United States. Here Power found a love for sport and quickly assimilated into the American school system. She was accepted to Yale with the ambition to become a sports broadcaster but the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 changed her perspective.


These events sparked an interest in foreign affairs and she quickly began to educate herself on the foreign affairs and read extensively. This led to her taking the leap of becoming a war correspondent reporting on the war in Bosnia through the early the 1990’s. She wrote for many different publications including the Telegraph and NPR.


She returned the US to study Law at Harvard intending to become prosecutor but her knowlege of the war in Bosnia and passion for foreign policy led to her writing her first book “A Problem from Hell America and the Age of Genocide”. The Pulitzer prize winning book caused ripples across America and brought her to the attention of many in Washington. It was this book that caught the  attention of a young idealistic senator - Barack Obama.


She soon joined Obama's staff as a foreign policy adviser. This continued as Obama began his bid for the Presidency. 


Power played a vital if somewhat controversial role in the campaign resulting in her being side-lined for a short time due comments mistakenly made relating to the character of Hillary Clinton. When Obama won the presidency Power served on the National Security Council as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. Here she used her expertise to work on issues such as religious freedom and the prevention of human trafficking.

In 2013 after the former ambassador Susan Rice moved to fulfill another role Power was nominated to become the 28th US Abassador to the United Nations. This nomination involved a rigorous two week confirmation hearing in the senate but Power was confirmed in the senate 87-10. 


Power worked on issues such as sanctions against North Korea, lobbied for the release of political prisoners and opposed Russain aggression in Ukraine and Syria. She played an important role in the formation of laws to prevent the financing of ISIS and helped to combat Ebola in North Africa. 


Power made great strides to improve relations between countries within the UN resulting in Obama saying that “she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity.”  Power served as UN Ambassador from 2013 to 201, stepping down before the new administration took office.


In recent weeks Biden announced Power a his nomination to take up the Role of USAID and that this role will be promoted to the National Security Council.  Biden spoke fondly of Power stating  that Power represented "a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity." 


Power speaking in a video released by Biden expressed her appreciation for the work done by USAID; “ I have seen the ingenuity, the determination, the curiosity and the humanity of USAID staff, and I couldn't be more excited to work with them," This role will once again involve an Senate confirmation which will take place in the coming weeks.


Power has worked tirelessly for over two decades across a variety of platforms for human rights. Power’s  motivation to keep the human experience to the centre of the foreign policy will be an important factor in her new role. Her vast experience and conscience will provide a strong foundation for USAID as the world moves forward from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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