Samantha Power sworn in as head of US international aid agency

Former ambassador to UN pays tribute to Kamala Harris as she takes oath of office

Former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power paid tribute to vice-president Kamala Harris as Ms Power was sworn in as the new head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

Ms Power, who took the oath of office at a ceremony in the White House on Monday, said she was honoured to have been chosen by Ms Harris and president Joe Biden to lead the US's top international aid agency.

Gesturing towards her daughter Rían, Ms Power described “how thrilling it is for me to bring my daughter here, to meet you [Ms Harris], to see you in action, for her to know that everything is available to her”.

“From the very first time she saw you on the big screen, you were a role model for her. I know that you’re doing that all around the world, but it’s personal for us, so thank you,” she said to Ms Harris, the first female vice-president in US history, who administered the oath of office to Ms Power.


Ms Power, who was born in Dublin and emigrated to the US aged nine, thanked her family for their support, as she set out her objectives for her new role. Noting that the US has “returned to evidence . . . returned to science” under the Biden administration, she praised the technical expertise of the staff at USAid.

“USAid is an agency that tackles the world’s hardest problems. It’s no secret that we’ve got a few of those on our plate right now – from Covid itself to the fallout from Covid economically, setting back so many development gains that have been experienced in a positive way in recent years,” she said.

“Now, [for] so many of those – whether girls’ education, the other vaccinations and immunisations, economic growth – everything’s set back. So we have our work cut out for us.”

Council seat

Ms Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, academic and human rights activist, served as US ambassador to the UN during the Obama administration. She was chosen by Mr Biden earlier this year to lead USAid, the agency responsible for administering billions of dollars of aid around the world.

In this capacity, she will also have a seat on the White House National Security Council.

In an address to staff at the agency following the swearing-in ceremony, Ms Power thanked employees for their dedication.

"You don't shy away from the world's pain . . . you don't consider it someone else's problem. You act, you serve," she said. She recalled how she first came across the work of USAid while a young reporter in Bosnia, and described how she had also seen the work of the agency up close in East Timor, along the Syrian border, in northern Nigeria and Ukraine. "You have been out there promoting individual dignity and demonstrating true grit," she said, noting that the idea that every individual has equal worth is a key tenet of Mr Biden's philosophy.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent