Patrick Gaspard is the president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress and the chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Patrick Gaspard was a key figure in President Barack Obama’s administration and held a number of prominent positions during Obama’s two terms in office, including serving as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of South Africa in the second term.
From the fall 2011 until the spring 2013, Gaspard served as executive director of the Democratic National Committee, where he steered the national party’s role in reelecting the president and oversaw a $300 million budget and 500 staff.
From 2009 until 2011, he was assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Political Affairs. He also served as the associate director of personnel for the Obama transition and the national political director for the historic 2008 campaign.
Gaspard most recently served as the president of the Open Society Foundations (OSF), one of the largest private philanthropies in the world. He first joined the foundation as its global vice president, responsible for its regional programs across five continents and its global advocacy strategy in multiple world capitals. He quickly became president during his first year in OSF in 2017 and went on to serve in that role for four years. As president, he managed and set the strategy for a $1.4 billion dollar budget and a staff of 1,600.
During his tenure, he confronted significant threats to open societies around the globe, including the rise of authoritarian regimes and the spread of COVID-19 worldwide. In 2020, Gaspard conceptualized and stewarded Open Society’s urgent contribution of $200 million in investments to support essential workers and other communities hit hardest by COVID-19. He also shaped the foundation’s $220 million commitment to civil rights groups in the wake of the national reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd.
During his tenure as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of South Africa, from 2013 to 2016, he led over 1,000 staff and an annual budget of more than $600 million from 29 different government agencies. Gaspard led the effort to redesign PEPFAR—the U.S. government’s HIV/AIDS initiative—to integrate it effectively into the South African health care system. He also successfully led the trade negotiations that led to an unprecedented 10-year renewal of the bilateral African Growth and Opportunity compact between the trading partners.
Gaspard was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to Haitian parents. He grew up in New York City and had a long career there and nationally in organized labor, electoral politics, and public service. He started as a union organizer and rose to become executive vice president for politics and legislation of the Local 1199 branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest unions in the United States. He went on to serve as the national political director for the national organization and its 2 million members.
Gaspard attended Columbia University and is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Columbia University and Bard College. He has also been awarded the Spingarn Medal, which is the highest honor bestowed by the NAACP.