History: 2018-2019 Program

September 5, 2018
His Excellency, Geir Haarde, Ambassador of Iceland to the United States

Mr. Haarde holds BA and MA degrees in Economics from Brandeis and University of Minnesota and a MA with distinction in International Relations from John Hopkins.  He began his career as Economist in the International Department of the Central Bank of Iceland and then became the Political Adviser to the Minister of Finance.  He was a member of the Icelandic Parliament, Althingi, from 1987 to 2009, during which time he held many roles, including Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman of the Independence Party, Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and finally Prime Minister of Iceland.  From 2009 to 2014 he served as an independent consultant and speaker.

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October 3, 2018

His Excellency Pjer Šimonović, Ambassador of Croatia to the United States

Mr. Šimonović, born in Split, earned a BA in Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and Italian Language and Literature at the University of Zagreb.  He began his career as a journalist covering the unraveling of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe; in 1993 left Croatia to work at BBC World Service radio, during which time he also earned a Master’s Degree in War Studies at King’s College London.  Šimonović joined the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb in 1998 as Deputy Head of the Analytical Department and served in his first foreign posting as First Secretary and Counselor for Political Affairs as well as Deputy Head of Mission in Paris.  After a brief return to Journalism, he rejoined the Foreign Service to serve as national coordinator for NATO, as well as Assistant Minister for International Organizations and Security.  He then moved to the Ministry of Defense serving as Director of Defense Policy and later as State Secretary for Defense Policy.  Returning to the Foreign Ministry, Šimonović served as Ambassador to Israel from 2012 to 2016 and now holds the position of Ambassador to the United States.

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November 7, 2018

His Excellency Carlos Wahnon Veiga, Ambassador of Cabo Verde

Ambassador Veiga was born in 1949 on São Vicente Island and has a degree from the Classical University of Lisbon (Portugal).  He was Prime Minister from 1991-2000, and he successfully ran for President as a candidate of the Movement for Democracy (MpD) in 2001 and 2006.  Previously, Veiga served as Director General of Internal Administration from 1975-78.  From 1978-80, he was the Attorney General of Cabo Verde.  Due to ideological disagreements with the then single-party government, he left his public administration position and opened his private law firm.  Veiga served as President of the Cabo Verdean Bar Association from 1982-86 and was elected a member of the National Assembly in 1985.  Veiga started to question the country’s single party political system and ultimately sought to change the constitution to allow for a multi-party democracy.  In 1990, he founded the MpD and was elected the first leader of the party.  In January 1991, MpD won by 53 of the 79 National Assembly seats making him the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Cabo Verde.  He resigned as Prime Minister to run as MpD’s candidate in the 2001 presidential election, which he lost by 17 votes to Pedro Pires of the African Party for the Independence of Cabo Verde (PAICV),  He lost again to Pires in 2006.  In both elections, Veiga lost by less than one percent.  Veiga led the MpD from 1990-2000 and again from 2009-2013.

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December 5, 2018

Her Excellency Madame Dina Kawar, Ambassador of Jordan

Dina Kawar is Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States, which position she has held since June 2016. Ambassador Kawar also served as the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations from August 2014 to June 2016.  She has led the Jordanian delegation to the United Nations Security Council from 2014 to 2015 and became the first Arab woman to ever preside over the council.  Prior to her position in New York, Ambassador Dina Kawar served as Ambassador to France from 2001 to 2013, with concurrent accreditation to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and to the Holy See.  She also served as non-resident Ambassador to Portugal from 2005 to 2013.  Ambassador Kawar holds a number of decorations including the Medal of Independence of the First Degree from Jordan, Commandeur De La Legion d’Honneur from France, Madalha de D. Afonso Henrique from Portugal and Insignes de Dame de Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de Saint Gregoire le Grand from the Holy See. Ambassador Kawar holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Mills College.  She attended Harvard’s Center for International Affairs from 1986 to 1987.

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January 9, 2019

Her Excellency Madame Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland

Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland to the United States, has held her position since September 2015. Ambassador Kauppi began her career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1983 working on development cooperation issues, including two years In the International Labour Organization in Geneva. Over the following years she was Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangkok, Washington, and Berlin; she also served in the Finnish Permanent Mission to the EU in Brussels and later was advisor to the State Secretary and then head of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security coordination in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki. In 2005, she was appointed Ambassador of Finland to Austria and Permanent Representative to the UN-related international organizations located in Vienna. From 2009-2012 Ambassador Kauppi served as Director General for Africa and the Middle East and then as Director General for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki.  She was born in Oulu in Northern Finland, studied at the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration and received a Master’s Degree in Economics.

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February 6, 2019
His Excellency Ashok Kumar Mirpur, Ambassador of Singapore

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri is Ambassador of Singapore to the United States, which position he has held since July 2012. Ambassador Mirpuri began his career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in 1984. In 1994, he was appointed Director of MFA’s Policy Planning and Analysis Directorate.  In 1997, Mr. Mirpuri was seconded to Shell International in the United Kingdom as Corporate Advisor Asia Pacific.  He was subsequently assigned to the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta as Minister Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission.  He served as High Commissioner to Australia from 2000 to 2002 and to Malaysia from 2002 to 2006, returning to Indonesia as Ambassador later that year.  Mr.  Mirpuri received his MA at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Affairs under a Raffles Scholarship.  He attended the Programme for Executive Development at the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland and the Advanced Management at Harvard Business School.

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March 6, 2019
His Excellency, Domingo Fezas Vital, Ambassador of Portugal

Domingo Fezas Vital, a career member of Portugal’s Foreign Service, was named in September 2015, as his country’s Ambassador to the United States.  Fezas Vital was born in Luanda, Angola and spent his teenage years in Brazil. He earned a degree in social and legal sciences from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a law degree from the University of Coimbra, Portugal.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1984. He served first as an embassy attaché, but beginning in 1987 he was appointed deputy to foreign Affairs Minister João de Deus Pinheiro.  Beginning 1996, he was the diplomatic advisor to the Governor of Macau in which post he coordinated boarder issues with China as Portugal prepared to hand over the colony in 1999.  He lately served as Consul General in São Paulo Brazil.  In 2002 he was named Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union; he later served as Diplomatic Advisor to Portuguese President Cavaco Silva.  In 2012, Fezas Vital was named Permanent Representative to the EU, which post he held until coming to Washington.

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April 3, 2019
Ambassador Vernon Penner

Ambassador Penner is a long-term member of our club; he will be addressing the subject of “The Decline of American Diplomacy – A half Century Perspective”.  A native of New York City, Ambassador Penner joined the U.S. Department of State as a career diplomat in 1963 and subsequently specialized in political/ military relations, program direction and consular affairs.  He served seven tours in Europe including assignments in Frankfurt, Warsaw, Oporto, and Zurich.  He also spent two years in Kobe-Osaka, Japan and served as chief of liaison to the International Control Commission in Vietnam in 1973.  He was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State as Director of the Visa Office in the State department in Washington in 1983. Three years later, he was confirmed as Ambassador to the republic of Cape Verde where he served until 1990. In 1993 he was selected as Political Adviser to the SACEUR, General Shalikashvili, at SHAPE/NATO with special responsibility for military cooperation and Partnership for the Peace program. In 1997, Ambassador Penner was confirmed by the NATO Military Committee as Deputy Commandant of the NATO Defense College in Rome. Since his retirement in 2001, Ambassador Penner has lectured widely on State Department policy and international affairs. His foreign languages include German, Polish, and Portuguese and he has received a number of awards and special recognition from foreign governments and the US Departments of State and Defense.  He continues to be an avid sailor, skier, hiker, and diver.

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May 1, 2019
His Excellency Dirk Wouters, Ambassador of Belgium

Ambassador Wouters’ career has included both multilateral and bilateral assignments and has been primarily focused on European affairs.  Dirk Wouters joined the Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1980.  His career started in the consular and disarmament departments, and he went on to dealing with economic and technology issues at the Belgian Embassy in Rome.  From 1986, Mr Wouters  was appointed to several important functions in European Affairs, including with the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU.  He was directly involved in several negotiations on revision of the European Treaties.  In 1992, Mr. Wouters received a second assignment in Rome dealing with political and economic issues.  In 2001, he was appointed coordinator of the Belgian Presidency and headed for some years the Department of European Coordination and integration.  From 2003 to 2009, he was Permanent Representative of Belgium to the Political and Security Committee of the European Union.  In 2009, Mt Wouters was called to the office of the Prime Minister as diplomatic advisor and Sherpa.  After that, as Chief of Staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dirk Wouters was one of the main architects of the Belgian EU-Presidency and key foreign policy decisions on Afghanistan and Libya.  He was Permanent Representative of Belgium to the European Union from 2011 to 2016.  Mr. Wouters lived in New York while Deputy Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations (2011 t0 2016).

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June 5, 2019
Professor Mathilde Mukantabana Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

Prior to her appointment, Ambassador Mukantabana was a tenured Professor of History at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California from 1994 to 2013.  She is also co-founder and President of Friends of Rwanda Association (F.O.R.A), a non-profit American relief association created in the wake of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.  In addition, under the aegis of United Nations for Development Program (UNDP), Ambassador Mukantabana started the academic program of Social Work at the National University of Rwanda in 1999 and has taught a variety of subjects in their summer program. Ambassador Mukantabana has been a passionate community organizer for several decades and was cofounder of many organizations whose main purpose was to promote a positive engagement and collaboration of the Rwandan communities in the USA with other groups for the benefit of their respective countries.  She has won many awards attesting to her accomplishments including the 2012 Global Peace Award. Ambassador Mukantabana holds a Bachelors degree in History and Geography from the University of Burundi and a Masters degree in Social Work and Master of Arts in History from California State Sacramento.

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