Author Samantha Power to be nominated as U.N. ambassador

Samantha Power in the Oval Office in 2009.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by President Obama on Wednesday afternoon, officials said. Power would fill the chair vacated by Susan Rice, who is moving on to become Obama’s National Security Advisor.

Power was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction in 2003 for “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” Power had been a reporter covering Bosnia, and her observations made her highly critical of U.S. policies. “The United States had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred,” she wrote.

Although that pointed critique was directed from the outside, Power has been an insider in the Obama administration. She worked on his transition team as he first took office, and later became director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council. In February of this year, it was reported that she was stepping down from that position.

Power made a name for herself as a writer before she entered politics. After winning the Pulitzer for “A Problem from Hell,” she was a regular contributor to the the New Yorker. In 2008, she published a second book, “Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World,” about Vieira de Mello, Brazilian chief of the U.N. Mission to Iraq, who died there.


Born in Ireland, Power moved to Georgia as a child. She went to Yale and wanted to be a sports reporter. Her direction changed when she was a sports intern for an Atlanta TV station and saw footage from China’s Tiananmen Square.

“I’ll never forget that sight -- all the cameras jostling, going to black and them coming back up with people screaming and swearing,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2003. “Suddenly, in that moment, I had a reaction that surprised me -- that I could care so much, that I could feel that impotent. Until that point, I wasn’t political at all.”

After college, she got a job at the Carnegie Endowment; she left for Bosnia as a freelance reporter, eventually becoming a special correspondent for The Economist. Frustrated by her inability to enact change, she returned to the U.S. to attend Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, she was named executive director of the Kennedy School of Government’s new Human Rights Center.

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