AN HONOR TO REPRESENT
WHEN KENNEY RETURNED FROM THAILAND, she began the last phase of her diplomatic career as counselor to Secretary of State John Kerry, serving in the State Department’s fifth-highest-ranking position. Aside from her chief duty of representing the State Department at White House policy meetings, Kenney made many trips abroad on Kerry’s behalf, visiting places like Argentina and Myanmar to assess the status of the new governments there.
Kerry also entrusted Kenney with organizing outreach programs focused on educating women and girls on the foreign service and how to get involved, and she often spoke about the State Department at schools and universities, both at home and abroad. After speaking with Kenney, it’s obvious that encouraging others and developing their talents is something she holds close to her heart.
“Unquestionably, the work I am proudest of and I hope will live on is my mentorship of others,” Kenney says. “I spent a lot of time and energy coaching and mentoring younger officers, and I’m just so thrilled to watch some of the people I’ve mentored living up to their own talents.”
Her mentorship continues as an adjunct professor of leadership at Georgetown University. Now that she’s organizing classes, talking with students and grading papers, she laughs about having a newfound respect for college professors: “You realize why they spend so many years learning to be such qualified professionals.”
When she’s not teaching, she’s advising diplomacy groups, watching over her “total diva kitty,” Evita, planning overdue vacations and cheering on Washington sports teams with her husband. Her love of sports is well-known among her colleagues including Julie Chung, who also worked under Kenney in Thailand. Chung, now the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Japan, says she relies on the lessons she learned in the Bangkok embassy as an economic counselor. One memory of Kenney stands out among many.
“She loves sports analogies,” Chung laughs. “But I’ll never forget the great quote she told us: ‘You didn’t come here to sit on the bench. You came to play! So if you have an idea to share, or you have a disagreement, raise it. Tell it.’”
This motto and a few other trusted mantras were touchstones for Kenney throughout her journey in the foreign service. But one sentiment remains her guiding light:
“It is an honor to represent our nation. Always.”