Expertise: Asia-Pacific, Southeast Asia, Latin America, U.S. foreign policy
Ambassador Kristie Kenney is a senior fellow at American Progress. She holds the Department of State’s highest rank of career ambassador. Over her 30-year career, she has represented the United States abroad as an ambassador three times and has served in senior positions at the State Department and in the White House.
Kenney served as the 32nd counselor of the State Department, the department’s fifth-ranking official position. On behalf of Secretary of State John Kerry, she led delegations to Latin America and Asia. She is a frequent public speaker on leadership and foreign policy with a special focus on women’s groups. She currently teaches a course on leadership at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
As U.S. ambassador to Thailand from 2011 to 2014, Kenney led U.S. assistance during Thailand’s devastating 2011 floods and managed the response to the 2014 military coup. She was the first woman to head the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, one of the United States’ largest diplomatic missions with more than 3,000 staff.
Kenney served as the U.S ambassador to the Philippines from 2006 to 2010 and was the first woman to hold that post. There, she coordinated U.S. military and development assistance over multiple natural disasters. During this and subsequent assignments, she pioneered the use of social media by U.S. ambassadors to connect with diverse and dynamic foreign audiences. Earlier, she served as the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, where she advanced U.S. business and security interests in Latin America.
Kenney grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University and a master’s degree from Tulane University. She also attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. She speaks Spanish and French, as well as some Thai and Tagalog. She is married to Ambassador William Brownfield. When not rooting for Washington-area sports teams, Kenney enjoys travel, the outdoors, and connecting on social media with friends around the globe.