By Rebecca Hinkhouse
Samantha Power, inquisitive journalist, outspoken diplomat, and dedicated mother, is the perfect model for a female leader who has managed to do it all.
In 2014 Samantha Power told the Washington Post that her greatest childhood fear was to be boring. Given her accomplishments in researching and writing her Pulitzer Prize winning book “A Problem from Hell” and representing the U.S. as the nation’s youngest Ambassador to the United Nations, Power is far from realizing her fear.
Power was born on September 21, 1970 in Castleknock, Ireland. She immigrated to the United States when she was nine years old and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. Power realized her childhood dream of being a sports reporter when she interned at a TV station in Atlanta in 1989. One day while taking notes on a Braves-Padres Games, Power was shocked by live footage of the Tiananmen Square protests. She recalled to Glamour Magazine, “In that moment I became like a lot of young people in this country today, horrified and inspired but confused as to what I might do.”
After graduating from Yale in 1992, Power’s inspiration first led her back to Ireland to teach English. While there, Power was astounded by the number of Bosnian Muslims fleeing to Berlin to escape persecution. It wasn’t until her internship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that Power resolved to gain a firsthand account. Power traveled to Bosnia with little journalistic experience, solely on the promise that the editor of U.S. News & World Report would take her collect calls. She told Glamour magazine that “The journalists there, many of whom were women...showed me the ropes.”
Upon returning from Bosnia as an established war correspondent, Power’s next goal was to affect American foreign policy. She enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1996, where Power began researching her book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Her goal for the piece was to explore why American leaders turn a blind eye to modern genocide. The book was published in 2002, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003, and Power was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2004. She went on to write Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World, which was published in 2008.
Power first entered the political sphere after meeting then-Senator Barack Obama in 2005. Obama requested to meet with Power after reading A Problem From Hell, and in that very meeting she decided to accept a position as his political advisor. Power and Obama maintained a close relationship, but before reaching the White House, there were a few bumps along the road of Power’s political ascendency. While working on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, an out-of-context comment made by Power calling opponent Hillary Clinton “a monster,” led Power to step down from her position as Obama’s advisor. Since then, Power has made amends with Hillary Clinton and even worked alongside her during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
Power met her husband, Cass Sunstein, on the 2008 Obama campaign. Sunstein was a legal scholar and Harvard Law professor who later worked for the Obama administration as head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Not only do Power and Sunstein share a birthday, but they also share a passion for political science - Power once called Sunstein “the liveliest mind I’ve ever encountered”. The two married in 2008, had their son Declan in 2009 and their daughter Rían in 2012. Power once told Glamour Magazine, “My kids are my salvation.... It's a delight to walk in and get charged by a five-year-old and a two-year-old. That'll make you forget the darkness.”
Samantha Power was confirmed as UN ambassador in 2013. Power told Glamour Magazine, “There's something beautiful about working in the one place in the world where the world is present.” Working at the U.N has allowed Power to address human suffering and global atrocities head on. As The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos put it, Power is guided by the question: “To what end can America’s power be directed?” Power directs American power toward global good, first by forcing the American government to acknowledge violations of human rights, and then advocating American action toward the amelioration of global society.