The selection of Samantha Power as President Obama’s next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations caps a remarkable career to date for the young Irish emigrant.
Power came to the U.S. at the age nine in 1979 and hardly followed the approved path to foreign service success.
That usually consists of the best schools, a leg up in the foreign policy establishment and an insider path to State Department power.
Power had none of those contacts to begin with. Her foreign policy experience would be hard-earned covering one of Europe’s bloodiest battlefields, and what experience she gained was deeply personal.
A native Dubliner, she ended up living in Atlanta and wanted to be a sports reporter. One day while interning in a local TV station in 1989 she saw a video roll of what was happening in Tiananmen Square in Beijing and asked herself the fundamental question of what she was doing with her life.
Soon after she went to the Balkans reporting on the civil war for U.S. News and World Report among other publications.
The horrors she saw there resulted in a Pulitzer Prize winning book on the nature of genocide, and also kick started her foreign policy career.
Power took up a post at Harvard and soon began advising a long shot candidate for the U.S. Senate and later the White House called Barack Obama.
Power saw in the young black candidate from Illinois a different kind of politician, and Obama recognized a foreign policy expert who had acquired her skills far from the playing fields of Georgetown University and other foreign policy establishments.
It was not all roses during his first presidential campaign. Power needlessly antagonized Hillary Clinton’s camp when she called her a monster in an ill-judged British interview.
Her punishment was to see Clinton installed as secretary of state and her own position at the National Security Council downgraded.
Power kept her head down and did the work, and her foreign policy credentials were greatly enhanced when she pushed hard for the Libyan intervention which undoubtedly stopped a near genocide by government forces.
Now in the Obama second term she is high on the totem pole at age 42 with a very bright future ahead.
It is not impossible to see her as a future secretary of state in a Democratic administration if she is successful in New York at the UN.
She still has to be confirmed, and members of the right wing pro-Israeli lobby will oppose her unfairly. But she is likely to overcome all that and be confirmed.
It will be a remarkable rise from an emigrant childhood to one of the top diplomatic posts in America.
There is no doubt Power has the talent to progress much further and to serve as an example for all emigrant children that when it comes to the American dream, the sky truly is the limit.
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