The Leaderboard: Kristie A. Kenney

Who is she?

Kristie A. Kenney has served as the U.S. ambassador to the Royal Kingdom of Thailand since January 8, 2011.  Ambassador Kenney is a career Foreign Service officer and began her diplomatic service in 1981.  Her overseas assignments included serving as the first female U.S. ambassador to the Philippines (2006-2010), ambassador to Ecuador, and positions at U.S. embassies in Jamaica, Switzerland, and Argentina. Domestically, Kenney has served as the State Department executive secretary and on the National Security Council staff at the White House.

Ambassador Kenney earned her bachelor’s degree from Clemson University and her master’s degree from Tulane University. She also attended the National War College in Washington, D.C.  Her husband is William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics, law enforcement, and crime.

Ambassador Kristie Kenney is now the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand. Source: U.S. State Department, U.S. government work.

Why is she in the news?

The United States Senate  on September 24 conferred upon Kenney the rank of “career ambassador” in recognition of her exceptionally distinguished service. The rank of “career ambassador,” which is equivalent to the military rank of four-star general, is awarded by nomination of the president and confirmation of the Senate. In over 50 years, the Office of the Historian records only 53 diplomats achieving the rank of career ambassador. President Barack Obama this year also bestowed the honor upon Kenney’s husband William Brownfield, and U.S. ambassador to Brazil Thomas Alfred Shannon, Jr.

What can we expect from her?

Ambassador Kenney will play a pivotal role in deepening the U.S. relationship with Thailand, its oldest Asian ally. The relationship is currently seeing a resurgence on both sides, as the United States continues its focus on Asia and Thailand renews its foreign policy efforts after six years of being bogged down in domestic turmoil. In addition to promoting political and military exchanges, Ambassador Kenney has a strong appreciation for people-to-people relations and places great importance on engaging Thai citizens in person and through social media platforms.


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