Before the Age of Prejudice:
A Muslim Woman's National Security Work with Three American Presidents
Ambassador Tahir-Kheli's memoir offers a fascinating insider's perspective from one who happens to be a Muslim woman on U.S. foreign policy-making during three Republican presidential administrations. Ambassador Tahir-Kheli's life story is a testament to the promise and delivery of the American dream in another era and is a must-read for scholars and policy makers.
Introduction by Vali Nasr
Dean, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Chairman, Foreign Policy Institute
Remarks by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute
Conversation Moderated by Joshua White
Associate Professor of Practice, South Asia Studies
Fellow, Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asia Studies
Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli was named by Newsweek in 2011 as one of the "150 Women Who Shake the World." She specializes in South Asia, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, United Nations and U.S. Foreign Policy, and Women's Empowerment. Her most recent book and memoir is titled, Before the Age of Prejudice: A Muslim Woman's National Security Work with Three American Presidents (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).
From March 2003 to April 2005, she served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations at the National Security Council. She proposed and coordinated the building of the Children's Hospital for treatment of Cancer in Basra, Iraq from 2004-2009. The hospital, the first of its kind in Iraq, and a public-private partnership, opened in 2010.
During 2004 - 2006, she served as the key U.S. official in the formulation of U.S. policy toward United Nations Reform. She oversaw the diplomatic effort to press for critical changes in the UN system from her position as Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council and later as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for UN Reform.
Ambassador Tahir-Kheli was appointed by Secretary Condoleezza Rice as her Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment on April 5, 2006. There, she established the first ever office focused on integrating Women's Empowerment into U.S. foreign policy. She setup and oversaw the work of the Women Leaders' Working Group, comprising some sixty female heads of state, foreign ministers, political leaders, attorney generals and speakers of parliaments, focused on political participation, education, economic empowerment and justice. She spearheaded the State Department initiative for "Women's Justice," which brought together at the Department of State on March 12, 2008, judges from around the world to work on measures to alleviate the severity of violence against women and women's lack of access to justice, which continues.
Ambassador Tahir-Kheli was also Research Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS and from 1999-June 2002, she served as the founding Director of the South Asia Program, which was part of the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS.
Earlier, during her service in the U.S. government, Ambassador Tahir-Kheli served as: Head of the United States delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001; Alternate United States Representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs (1990-1993), a post that carries the rank of Ambassador; Member, United States Presidential Commission on the Public Service during 1992-1993; and Director of Near East and South Asian Affairs (1986-1989) and Director of Political Military Affairs (1984-1986) at the National Security Council. She joined the Reagan Administration in 1982 as Member, Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Secretary of State.
She is the author and editor of several monographs, including: Pakistan Today: The Case for U.S.-Pakistan Relations (co-written by Shahid Javed Burki, Foreign Policy Institute, 2017); Manipulating Religion for Political Gain in Pakistan: Consequences for the U.S. and the Region (Foreign Policy Institute, 2015); India, Pakistan and the United States: Breaking with the Past (Council on Foreign Relations, 1997); The United States and Pakistan: The Evolution of an Influence Relationship (Praeger 1982); Water Conflicts in South Asia: Managing Water Disputes within and between Countries of the Region (coordinated and edited with Toufiq A. Siddiqi, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2004); Water Needs in South Asia: Closing the Demand-Supply Gap (coordinated and edited with Toufiq A. Siddiqi, Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2005).
Dr. Joshua T. White is Associate Professor of the Practice of South Asia Studies and Fellow at the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asia Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He is also a Nonresident Fellow in the Foreign Policy program at The Brookings Institution. He previously served at the White House as Senior Advisor & Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, where he staffed the President and National Security Advisor on the full range of South Asia policy issues pertaining to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Indian subcontinent, and led efforts to integrate U.S. government policy planning across South and East Asia. While at the White House, Dr. White played an instrumental role in advancing the U.S.-India relationship, with a focus on deepened defense and security cooperation and expanded opportunities for trade and investment; sustained constructive U.S.-Pakistan ties on an array of counterterrorism, economic and regional issues; supported a sustainable security transition in Afghanistan; coordinated U.S. government plans to re-normalize ties with Sri Lanka after decades of civil war; and led a high-level government-wide effort to assess how the United States can effectively respond to the growing economic, political, and strategic linkages between South and East Asia.
Prior to joining the White House, Dr. White was a Senior Associate and Co-Director of the South Asia program at The Stimson Center and, previously, Senior Advisor for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a position he held in conjunction with an International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations. While at the Pentagon, he supported Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in advancing the U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, and advised on a broad set of defense issues related to the department’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.
Dr. White has spent extensive time in Asia, and has written on a wide range of issues including defense policy, electoral politics, Islamic movements, and nuclear deterrence. He has held short-term visiting research fellowships at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan’s National Defence University, and the Institute for Defence and Strategic Analyses in Delhi; testified before Congress; and served on U.S.-sponsored election observer delegations to both Pakistan and Bangladesh. He graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Williams College with a double major in history and mathematics, and received his PhD with distinction from Johns Hopkins SAIS.
The event was held:
Thursday, October 25, 2018
4:30 - 6:00 pm