Officially In: David Huebner to Wellington

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On October 7 President Obama announced his intent to nominate David Huebner to be his Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa. The official bio released by the WH is below:

David Huebner is the head of the China Practice and the International Disputes Practice at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where he specializes in international arbitration and mediation. Currently based in Shanghai, he has significant experience handling disputes in the Pacific Rim region. Previously, he was a long-time partner and served as chairman at Coudert Brothers. While a resident in California, Mr. Huebner chaired the California Law Revision Commission, served as president of the Los Angeles Quality & Productivity Commission, and taught courses in international business and intellectual property at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. He has also guest lectured on international topics at several schools in the United States and abroad, and is licensed both as a solicitor in England & Wales and as an attorney in three U.S. jurisdictions.

He has been active in non-profits, community organizations, and professional associations such as the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, International Chamber of Commerce Commission on Arbitration, Los Angeles Committee on Foreign Relations, and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

A native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Huebner is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, where he majored at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is also a graduate of Yale Law School.

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If confirmed, Mr. Huebner would replace William McCormick of Oregon who was appointed US Ambassador to New Zealand in 2005-2008. He would also be the 7th appointee in a succession of non-career ambassadors assigned to Wellington in the last two decades.

If you’ve been reading the news, you probably already know that Mr. Huebner has also been widely reported to become the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history and the first pick by the Obama administration. Only two openly gay men have served previously as a U.S. ambassador: James Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist and Democratic Party activist who was appointed by President Clinton as ambassador to Luxemburg and Michael Guest, a career Foreign Service Officer who was appointed by President George W. Bush as ambassador to Romania.

Over four decades ago, President Johnson actively pushed for more African-American and women in top positions at State and ambassadorships saying, “I want to move them up.” This FRUS series is worth a read, by the way, not just because of this but for a historical perspective of foreign affairs management during the Johnson years. I supposed that thirty years from now, we’ll get a chance to see the deliberation on this appointment inside the Obama Administration.

The fact that Mr. Huebner’s sexual orientation is mentioned in all the news is indicative of how far we, as a country, still have to go in this journey to equality. The appointments of African-Americans and women in US ambassadorships do not make much waves anymore these days. I look forward to the day when the appointment of an ambassador would still be newsworthy but the appointment of an openly gay ambassador would no longer make news.

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