The Leaderboard: Rena Bitter

Who is she?

Rena Bitter is the consul general at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a position that she has held for three years. Prior to this position, she served as the director of the State Department’s Operations Center from 2010 to 2012. She is a career member of the Foreign Service who has served nearly 20 years, with postings in Jordan, the United Kingdom, Colombia, and Mexico. Bitter has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a juris doctor degree from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

Consul General Rena Bitter receiving a bouquet from a Vietnamese official in 2015. President Obama on May 19 nominated Bitter to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Laos. Source: U.S. Pacific Fleet's flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

Consul General Rena Bitter, left, receiving a bouquet from a Vietnamese official in 2015. President Obama on May 18 nominated Bitter to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Laos. Source: U.S. Pacific Fleet’s flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

Why is she in the news?

President Barack Obama on May 18 nominated Bitter to be the next U.S. ambassador to Laos. If confirmed, Bitter will replace Daniel Clune, who has been ambassador since 2013.

What can we expect from her?

During her time as consul general in Ho Chi Minh City, Bitter has worked to promote freedom of speech and gay rights in Vietnam. As ambassador, Bitter will likely continue to champion human rights, considered severely restricted in Laos by watchdogs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Bitter will also oversee U.S. programs to remove unexploded ordnance in Laos left over from U.S. bombing campaigns during the Vietnam War, as well as increased development assistance programs in the country. She will work to engage the Lao population through U.S. nutrition and education initiatives. If she takes up her new position with enough time, Bitter will also play a key role in preparing for Obama’s trip to Laos in September, when he will attend the eleventh East Asia Summit.

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