Ambassador to Botswana: Who Is Michelle Gavin?

Saturday, January 28, 2012
The U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, a lightly-populated nation in Southern Africa which is the world’s leading producer of diamonds and suffers the world’s second highest HIV/AIDS infection rate, is a relatively young foreign policy expert who has specialized in African affairs for more than a decade and was the first Senate staffer to brief then Senator Barack Obama on African issues. Michelle D. Gavin was confirmed by the Senate on April 14, 2011, and arrived at the embassy in Gaborone, Botswana, in June 2011.
 
Born in June 1973 to Michael and Jeanette Gavin and hailing from Arizona, Michelle Gavin earned a B.A. at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1996, where she was a Truman Scholar, and an MPhil in International Relations at Oxford University in 1998, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
 
Since leaving Oxford, Gavin has been on the fast-track to foreign policy prominence. She served as the primary foreign policy adviser to Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), from October 1999 to October 2005, where she worked on the creation of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the reform of U.S. policy relating to HIV/AIDS treatment abroad. She also served as the staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs. She moved up to a legislative director position in October 2005, when she went to work for U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colorado), with whom she remained until December 2006.
 
Gavin then left government service to be an Adjunct Fellow for Africa and an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, from early 2007 to early 2009, when she joined the new Obama administration as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council. Obama’s appreciation of her talents was revealed when, in December 2010, shortly after Gavin had announced her intention to leave the White House, Vice President Joe Biden told President Obama, “Mr. President, whatever you do don’t let her leave,” with the President replying, “I know she's one of the best we've got, and I wouldn’t let her leave unless I knew she was going to be able to help us in the future.” Just two months later, in February 2011, Obama nominated Gavin to be ambassador to Botswana.
 
Gavin met her husband David Bonfili at Truman Scholar interviews. They are the parents of a daughter, Clara, born in 2009.
-Matt Bewig

U.S. Ambassador in Botswana Takes Grassroots Approach (by Ross Szabo, Huffington Post) 

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