US President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated business executive Margaret Cushing Whitman as ambassador to Kenya.
Whitman once ran for governor of California but has been on the boards of Procter & Gamble and General Motors, and was the national board chair at Teach for America.
If endorsed by Congress, she will replace Kyle McCarter, a son of evangelicals who became known for his controversial tweets criticising government officials for corruption.
McCarter resigned in February after Biden took over power. Whitman will become the first female US ambassador to Kenya since Prudence Bushnell was in that role in the 1990s.
Bushnell, who was in charge when US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed by Al-Qaeda operatives in 1998, later wrote a personal account of the incident.
On the day of the attack, she had been hosting then Education minister Joseph Kamotho at the mission’s offices, then located in the centre of Nairobi.
If approved, Whitman, born in August 1956, will come to a new environment where the US Embassy is more fortified, but the threats of terrorism that existed then have now morphed into more complicated versions of extremism.
President Biden’s selection of a business executive, though, signals a slight departure from the past: Recent appointees have been either career diplomats or strong party loyalists, who were male.
Her bio says she is the former CEO of Quibi, a streaming content platform for mobile devices, and a former president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the Hewlett Packard Company, eBay, and FTD.
“She has held senior leadership positions at Hasbro, StrideRite Corporation and the Walt Disney Corporation, and she is a former partner at Bain and Co,” the bio states.
Whitman received a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard University. “Among numerous honours, Meg has been inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame and the US Business Hall of Fame.”
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