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Obama administration nominates Stengel ’77 for under secretary role at State Department

As a result of the government shutdown that began on Oct. 1, the confirmation process for Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel ’77, who was nominated by President Obama on Sept. 17 to become the next U.S. Department of State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, has been put on hold.

If confirmed, Stengel will be the eighth under secretary since the position’s creation and the 24th journalist to be appointed to a post in the Obama administration, according to The Atlantic Wire.


Stengel declined to comment for this article due to the fact that he has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

The under secretary’s objective is to advance U.S. policy goals by developing international communication and relationships, according to the State Department’s website.

Jim Kelly ’76, Stengel’s predecessor at Time and a close friend, said the nominee will rise to the challenge.

“This job is relatively new,” Kelly said. “What Rick brings to the party is that he’s highly articulate, and he’s very good at articulating an agenda and then going about executing it. And he’s very good about delegating authority. He’s not a one-man band.”

Prior to his tenure as managing editor at Time, Stengel worked as the head of the National Constitution Center, co-wrote Nelson Mandela’s memoirs “Long Walk to Freedom” and worked as a speechwriter for Bill Bradley ’65.

At Princeton, Stengel majored in English and played basketball. He later studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.


In particular, Stengel’s time co-writing the Mandela memoir “gives him [the] international perspective” necessary to fulfill his new duties as under secretary, Kelly said.

Former Time Editor-in-Chief John Huey, who recruited Stengel to become managing editor, said he believed that Stengel’s appointment would be good for the country.

“He was one of the most transformative editors, in my opinion, that Time has ever had,” Huey said. “Rick is a very innovative and energetic and determined person ... I would describe him as a hands-on leader.”

Critics of the Obama administration have criticized the large number of journalists who have been appointed by the administration, according to The Washington Post.

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“It’s limiting to say that he is the 24th journalist in the Obama administration,” Kelly said, explaining why he thought critics’ claims were misguided. “He’s so much more than just a journalist.”

He explained that Stengel’s journalistic experience and communication skills would be assets in his new role as under secretary.

“This job, I think it’s ideally suited to the kind of skills Rick has,” Kelly said. “He’s a first-rate communicator. And this job, more than most jobs in the administration, is about communicating something very specific. It’s about what America stands for.”

Nancy Gibbs, who will succeed Stengel as managing editor of Time, said she was traveling and not available for comment.