Administrator Power at the Swearing In Ceremony for USAID Mission Director for Ghana Kimberly Rosen

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ronald Reagan Building
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning everybody. It’s such a pleasure to be here and I’m so privileged to be part of this event for Kimberly.

I want to encourage everyone watching from Ghana and beyond to turn on your camera, if you can bear to do that. It’s just great for Kimberly and her sister to see everyone’s faces. Thank you so much, I can’t tell you the difference it makes. And a number of you are going to get shoutouts, so it’s even more important that we get to see your faces.

Really, really grateful to everyone tuning in, and for joining us here in person so we can swear in Kimberly Rosen as our new Mission Director for USAID/Ghana.

To start with just a few acknowledgments: Madam Ambassador, thank you so much. Her Excellency Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States. I had not known until Diana introduced you that you are the first ever female ambassador from Ghana. Having now heard you speak, I now know why you are the first ever female ambassador from Ghana. And let me also welcome Mrs. Laila Heward-Mills from the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington.

2022 marks 65 years of partnership and cooperation between our two countries—a partnership that made Ghana one USAID’s very first partner countries, and the first country to accept American Peace Corps volunteers back in 1961. We are so grateful to have you here in Washington as we continue to deepen the relationship between Ghana and the United States. And given your background also as a Minister, if you have ideas about what we should be differently, now that I’ve heard you speak I know you won’t be shy about picking up the phone and giving myself and Diana and the team further ideas.

I’d also like to acknowledge our American Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia Palmer, who is tuning in remotely from Ghana’s capital city. Thank you for joining us, Madam Ambassador. Kimberly’s really excited to hit the ground running very soon, within a couple weeks. And of course, USAID’s partnership with you and your leadership on the ground there in Ghana, particularly in light of some of the headwinds that Ghana is facing—in addition to COVID and climate and all the preexisting conditions, you might say, now compounded by what is happening in Ukraine and the aftershocks which I’ll touch upon a bit later.

Welcome also to the Ghana Mission staff, joining us remotely—particularly Acting Mission Director Janean Davis, who I saw there on the screen, whose very large shoes Kimberly will soon have to fill. And our USAID/Ghana Foreign Service National representatives: Adama Jehanfo, Development Specialist in the Office of the Mission Director, and Susan Bonney, President of the FSN Committee. You’ll be pleased to hear, beloved Ghanaian colleagues, that in the meeting we just had, Kimberly and I talked about the critical importance of empowering our amazing Ghanaian national staff and making sure that you continue to have opportunities to grow and prosper, and that we hear you, and do everything in our power to break down barriers and things that are standing in your way. Just know that that’s a personal commitment from me, and something that we all look for as we choose Mission Directors, as to who shares that commitment—the beating heart of our work around the world, as I like to say.

I also want to mention Janet Engstrom, Kimberly’s sister, who was able to join us here in Washington for this special day. Having heard about the digs that her sister is soon going to have access to—that Sharon of course I’m sure has left in impeccable state—Janet is getting very excited about visiting her sister in Ghana very soon.

There are also a few very important people in Kimberly’s life who were unable to be here today.

Though not a person, the first is Illy, Kimberly’s dog, who passed away this past March. I’ve been told that everyone who has known Kimberly over the years knew about Illy, and a few were even so lucky as to meet her. Illy was a ten-pound Yorkie, whom Kimberly adopted from a couple at the embassy in Liberia, and whom she loved as a member of her own family. And she was there for all the big moments in Kimberly’s life—her travels, the pandemic, the passing of her mother, and everything in between.

I’ve been told that if Illy were here with us, she’d be watching proudly, tail wagging furiously—though I’m told she would have been impatiently waiting to go to the National Cathedral afterwards, so she could watch the goldfish swimming in the pond. This distinguishes your dog from my dogs, which would eat the goldfish in the pond.

I also wanted to acknowledge Kimberly’s late parents—her dad, “Big Ed,” as he was called fondly by all who knew him; as well as her mother, Helen. Both of her parents passed on the strength, independence, and fearlessness that have shaped who Kimberly is today—as well as a chronic love of the underdog, thanks to the one and only Rocky.

Helen passed on something else to her daughter. She was an avid online shopper at sites advertised on cable TV—a habit that Kimberly often complained about. And yet, some have told me that Kimberly has developed quite an online shopping habit herself. As one coworker said: “...the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

I know that both Kimberly’s parents would have loved to celebrate her today—and it’s great to have your sister here with us.

Kimberly grew up in a small, close-knit community just outside of Philadelphia. It was a community where families planted deep roots, and everyone knew everyone else. In fact, Kimberly’s fourth-grade teacher also taught her mother when she was a young girl. And her next-door neighbors were practically family.

And yet, the community itself—deeply rooted in Philadelphia though it was, thus the prior Rocky reference that some of you caught—the community also had roots that extended beyond. Kimberly was the granddaughter of German and Ukrainian immigrants who had come to America decades before in search of a better life, and they brought their culture with them. Kimberly’s hometown of Northeast Philly was heavy in German culture, with several authentic restaurants serving classics like sauerkraut, bratwurst, and schnitzel.

Despite its immigrant roots, Kimberly’s hometown was fairly self-contained. Family vacations never extended beyond the Jersey shore, sixty miles away. And yet Kimberly was never intimidated by the idea of branching out and leaving her comfort zone. Her friend, Carrie, remembers that she was the rare teenager that never actually cared what anyone thought about her. She was good at math and physics, and was one of the only girls in her classes. That didn’t make her self-conscious.

As a college student at Drexel, Kimberly chose to study Commerce and Engineering Sciences. This was in the 1980s—a time when women in engineering programs were so few and far between that Kimberly often had to cross campus to find—ladies?—a restroom. And yet, she never paid much attention to the fact that she stood out. As she puts it, she would just “do her own thing—until she needed a bathroom.” And that was the big liability there back then about being one of the few women on campus in the engineering program, but it was not the only liability.

It was the fall of the Berlin Wall that inspired Kimberly to pursue a career in development—a shift that, by all accounts, Kimberly made without hesitation. Inspired by the footage of freedom trickling in from Eastern Europe and drawn to a life of service, Kimberly applied and was accepted to the now-defunct Peace Corps program in Western Russia—a placement inspired by her desire to learn more about her own Eastern European roots.

So Kimberly, undaunted as always, left behind a high-powered career in finance to start over as a Small Business Development volunteer in Nizhny Novgorod. And in addition to her day job advising emerging small businesses, she taught an economics class to undergraduate engineering students and led a clothes donation drive for orphanages through a sister-city program in Philadelphia. Every week for over two years, Kimberly would return to the orphanage, bringing the kids snacks and generally trying to lift their spirits.

Kimberly’s time in Western Russia fostered a love of travel, of learning new languages, and of meeting new people and bridging cultures—but most of all, a deep calling to serve those in need. After returning from the Peace Corps, she searched for opportunities to travel in service of others—first to Azerbaijan, where she worked to provide critical health services to refugees and internally displaced communities, and finally, wonderfully, to USAID.

Kimberly joined USAID as part of one of the first groups of Foreign Service Officers hired after a ten-year hiatus. And it soon became clear just how good of a decision it was to unfreeze hiring just in time for Kimberly to join the Agency.

In her time at USAID, she has worn many hats—Mission Director, Director of West Africa Affairs, Director of the Economic Growth Office, to name just a few. Her more than twenty years here have taken her to Afghanistan, Romania, Liberia—which is where she found her dog, Illy—and Kyrgyzstan.

Her success here at USAID, much like the rest of her career, can be attributed to her fearlessness in the face of a challenge. Her former manager remembers Kimberly from her first days as a newly minted, not-yet-jaded federal employee, fresh out of graduate school—or as he described her, “a real eager beaver.” Almost immediately, she was handling a program in Cuba—a tough assignment by any measure.

Without breaking a sweat, Kimberly deftly managed people from the Agency, from the State Department, and on the Hill—particularly the representatives of Cuban American communities in Miami. And she did it all with a remarkable sense of humor. Her coworker remembered her ability to laugh things off and instantly defuse emotionally-charged situations. And, along the way, she has also gained a reputation as a great listener and an unfailingly kind, compassionate human being.

Kimberly’s compassion, commitment to USAID’s mission, and her remarkable ability to meet challenges head on makes her particularly well-suited for this new role: Mission Director at USAID/Ghana.

As indicated, USAID’s partnership with Ghana does stretch back to the Agency’s creation in 1961. Over these six decades, we have worked to support Ghana in developing its infrastructure, boosting its agricultural productivity, expanding access to quality healthcare and education, and as people did the work here, helping ramp up its GDP, pushing into middle income status in 2007.

Today, Ghana remains, as it long has been, an anchor of stability in West Africa—and a valuable partner to the United States in the region. President Akufo-Addo’s vision for the country is—I love this—a Ghana Beyond Aid. He’s not singling out USAID—not a Ghana without USAID, but a Ghana Beyond Aid—a goal that aligns with USAID’s ultimate mission, which is to put ourselves out of business for sure.

To collectively meet that goal, there remains much to do, and Kimberly arrives in Ghana at a critical time for the nation. With 9.6 million donated COVID-19 vaccine doses and continued U.S. support through our Global VAX effort, vaccination drives have succeeded, as the Ambassador said, in vaccinating 25 percent of the population, though work remains to protect the others who have not yet been vaccinated—particularly the most vulnerable and immunocompromised.

Concern about instability in neighboring countries, and its potential to spread, naturally worries both our nations, and the United States plans to work closely with Ghana and its regional neighbors to counter violent extremism and promote peace through the recently-launched U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.

Our long-time support of Ghana’s democracy also continues, as we work to support the country’s district-level governments to deliver essential services to the country’s citizens, strengthen local accountability, and support the constitutional human rights of individuals to speech, expression, and free assembly, including members of the LGBTQI+ community.

And Ghana is facing the same spike in food, fertilizer, and fuel prices that we’ve all seen, in part due to Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine. Fertilizer supplies in Ghana—so critical to the agriculture industry and national food security—are down 70 percent in markets across the country. And this is something that, rest assured Madam Ambassador, we are laser focused on—and really need to work together to find a solution for.

To be Mission Director in Ghana right now requires someone who does not shy away from a challenge. Someone who can connect with others, who can grasp information quickly, who reads voraciously and devours briefing materials.

Kimberly is, in every way, the perfect fit. She has dedicated her entire career to serving others, and she does so because she believes deeply in USAID’s mission—to build a world that is peaceful, prosperous, and free, and ultimately, free of the need for aid.

We are incredibly lucky to have her take the reins at our Mission in Ghana.

With that, it is my great pleasure to administer the oath of office.

Last updated: May 24, 2022

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