U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands: Who Is Karen Brevard Stewart?

Friday, January 01, 2016
Karen Stewart

Karen Stewart, a career foreign service officer who has been ambassador to two other countries, was nominated on Nov. 5, 2015, by President Barack Obama to be the next ambassador to the Marshall Islands.


Stewart was born April 10, 1952, in Florida and is from Coral Gables. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in astronomy and economics from Wellesley College in 1973 and pursued further studies in astronomy at the University of Virginia.


Stewart joined the Foreign Service in 1977. Her overseas assignments have taken her to Bangkok and Udorn, Thailand; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Islamabad, Pakistan.


In Washington she has served as international relations officer in the State Department’s Office of Fisheries Affairs, economic officer in the Office of Energy Consuming Countries, and economic/commercial desk officer in the Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs.


In 1998, she earned an MS in national security strategy from the National War College of the National Defense University at Fort McNair.


From 2002 to 2004, Stewart was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Minsk, Belarus. She came home in 2005 to serve as director of the Office of Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus Affairs. Stewart wasn’t gone from Belarus too long. In July 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Stewart to be U.S. ambassador to Belarus and she arrived in Minsk on September 18. Following the U.S. imposition of economic sanctions against Belarus’ national oil company, the Belarusan dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenko, forced Stewart to leave the country on March 12, 2008.


On July 1, 2008, Stewart became principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.


In February 2010, she was made special adviser to the director general of the Foreign Service. In October, she was appointed ambassador to Laos, her third tour in that country. She had served as an economic reporting officer in the 1980s and as deputy chief of mission from 1999 to 2001. During her term as ambassador, Stewart focused on helping to remove unexploded ordnance left over by the United States and other countries during the Vietnam War and broke ground on a new U.S. embassy in Vientiane. She also performed in a rap video—in Lao—for a local crowd. 


Stewart returned to Washington in 2013 to serve as political adviser to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. She was in that job at the time of her nomination to the Marshall Islands post.


Stewart, who is single, speaks Thai and Russian in addition to Lao.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


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