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Diplomat and Ambassador John O'Keefe Named New Executive Director of Open World Leadership Center.

WASHINGTON -- Dr. James Billington, Chairman of the Board of the Open World Leadership Center, has announced the appointment of Ambassador John O'Keefe as the Center's Executive Director, effective August 5, 2007. He replaces Ambassador Richard M. Miles, who retired from the Center.

"Ambassador O'Keefe has an outstanding record as a manager and as a diplomat with a deep understanding of the post-Soviet states," Dr. Billington said. "His leadership will help Open World continue to make important, practical contributions to international relations in such a vital part of the world."

"Joining Open World and its professionals who have developed the program so well represents a singular honor for me," Ambassador O'Keefe said. "It allows me to participate in a dialogue between and among our nations that will benefit all parties for many years. I thank the Board and Dr. Billington for their confidence."

Ambassador O'Keefe brings strong managerial and policy skills to Open World. As new states emerged in the seismic shift of political fortunes in the last decade, he helped set up and staff 21 embassies in the Newly Independent States, Central Europe and the Balkans. Later, as Management Minister Counselor in our embassy in Moscow, he oversaw the on schedule/within budget construction of the secure chancery, restructured services contracts to save millions of dollars, and led the development of and initial fund-raising for the Anglo-American School's new $45 million campus. More recently, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and acting Director General of the Foreign Service, where he negotiated rigorous career development requirements for Foreign Service personnel within the bargaining unit, and began to reform the pension system for host nation staff at U.S. Embassies around the world.

Having served twice in Moscow and once in Central Asia as well as two tours in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Ambassador O'Keefe understands the dynamics of Open World's changing region. As ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic from August 2000 to July 2003, he negotiated a treaty with the Kyrgyz to establish a coalition base in support of operations in Afghanistan, established a six-person investment advisory council headed by the President of Kyrgyzstan to attract foreign capital, created an outreach program to the Muslim community for a dialogue on sensitive issues, and improved housing and the physical plant for embassy staff.

Ambassador O'Keefe has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Honor Award of the Department of State and the Presidential Performance Award, and was granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the American University - Central Asia. He is married to Monica Fallon O'Keefe and has two daughters, Laura and Meaghan, and a son, John.

Congress established the Open World Program in 1999 to increase U.S./Russian understanding, to expose Russian leaders to American democratic and economic institutions, and to allow U.S. communities to know current and future Russian decision makers. The program, which is housed in the U.S. legislative branch, has since expanded to include other post-Soviet states. Through Open World, Congress has enabled more than 12,000 current and future leaders from all 85 regions of Russia and from the other participating countries to observe and experience directly American democracy in all its complexity. Open World delegates range from first-time mayors and legislators to small business advocates, from nonprofit directors to high court judges.

More than 6,000 American families in 1,500 communities have hosted Open World participants in every U.S. state. The emerging leaders return to their home countries with new friendships and a clearer understanding of American life and values. Program participants come to work with their American counterparts on topics of mutual interest and benefit, such as ways of containing pandemics, developing environmentally responsible public policy, and improving educational curricula in primary and secondary schools. The program's themes relate to the delegates' professional or civic work and provide exposure to ideas and practices that participants may adapt to their own situations, just as the American communities they visit acquire a better understanding of--and often continuing links with--the new post-Soviet generation in Eurasia.

For more information on Open World, please visit the program's website at www.openworld.gov or contact Amanda Lahan at (202) 466-6210.
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