Who is Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s pick for US ambassador to UN?

Linda Thomas Greenfield (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy team was beginning to take shape after he nominated Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Thomas-Greenfield was one of Biden’s notable foreign policy picks, which were announced Monday. The president-elect also nominated Antony Blinken, a longtime diplomat and adviser, as his administration’s secretary of state.

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“These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative,” Biden said in a statement.

Thomas-Greenfield’s name may be new to some, but her resume in the foreign service field is lengthy.

Career background

If confirmed, Thomas-Greenfield will be returning to the public service arena after she retired from a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service in 2017. 

From 2013 to 2017, she worked as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, focusing on U.S. policy regarding sub-Saharan Africa. From 2012 to 2013, she served as the director general of the Foreign Service and director of human resources.

Thomas-Greenfield’s legacy left footprints in several countries, including Liberia, Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica. She has held other jobs, including principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008) and deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (2004-2006).

According to Biden’s statement, Thomas-Greenfield led the Africa Practice at Albright Stonebridge Group and was also the inaugural distinguished resident fellow in African Studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy from fall 2017 to spring 2019. She joined ISD in spring 2017 as a senior State Department fellow. 

Personal life

Thomas was born in 1952 in Louisiana. 

She earned a B.A. from Louisiana State University and a M.A. from the University of Wisconsin, where she worked toward a Ph.D. She received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Wisconsin in May 2018.

Thomas-Greenfield alluded to her mother as she posted a tweet accepting the nomination.

Her new role

If confirmed to the new role, Thomas-Greenfield would represent the country’s position on peace and security issues to the Security Council and the U.N. She would also represent the country at U.N. meetings. Her duties would include advising the president on international affairs, with an emphasis on peace and security.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is often the most high-profile foreign policy position. Thomas-Greenfield’s immediate predecessors were also women: Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Nikki Haley and Kelly Craft.

Thomas-Greenfield was lauded as “a valued colleague and veteran diplomat who will restore US leadership and cooperation at the UN” by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, according to the Associated Press.

While she won’t be the first African American to serve as America’s U.N. envoy — Andrew Young, who held the job during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, holds that distinction — Thomas-Greenfield’s selection is a signal to Biden supporters that his diversity message and plan to elevate career diplomats is not just lip service.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this report.