William D. Zabel ’61 Professor of Practice in Human Rights, HLS
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, 2013-2017
Samantha Power serves in the Biden-Harris Administration as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She is currently on public service leave from Harvard Kennedy School, where she is the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, and from Harvard Law School, where she is the William D. Zabel ’61 Professor of Practice in Human Rights.
From 2013 to 2017, Power served in the Obama-Biden Administration as the 28th US Permanent Representative to the United Nations. During her time at the UN, Power rallied countries to combat the Ebola epidemic, ratify the Paris climate agreement, and develop new international law to cripple ISIS’s financial networks. She worked to negotiate and implement the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, helped catalyze bold international commitments to care for refugees, and advocated to secure the release of political prisoners, defend civil society from growing repression, and protect the rights of women and girls.
From 2009 to 2013, Power served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. At the NSC, she advised the Obama-Biden Administration on issues such as democracy promotion, UN reform, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, atrocity prevention, and the fights against human trafficking and global corruption. President Obama called her “one of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy,” saying that “she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity.”
Called by Forbes “a powerful crusader for U.S foreign policy as well as human rights and democracy” when it named her one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” Power has been recognized as a leading voice internationally for principled American engagement in the world. She has been named one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” and has twice been selected as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People.”
Her book “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002) won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2003. Power is also author of the New York Times bestseller Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World (2008) and co-editor, with Derek Chollet, of The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World (2011).
Power’s most recent book, The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir (2019), was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller, and was selected as one of the best books of 2019 by outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, National Public Radio, Time, Audible, Vanity Fair, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Power began her career as a journalist, reporting from places such as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Before joining the U.S. government, Power was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, a columnist for Time, and a National Magazine Award-winning contributor to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books.
Power immigrated to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. She earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.