Representing the U.S. as
Ambassador to Austria
Swanee Hunt’s mission is to achieve gender parity, especially as a means to end war and rebuild societies, as well as to alleviate poverty and other human suffering. At Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy. In 1997 she founded the Women and Public Policy Program, a research center concerned with domestic and foreign policy, which she directed for more than a decade. She teaches "Inclusive Security," exploring how women are systematically excluded from peace processes, the impact, and the policy steps needed to rectify the problem. At the Kennedy School she is also core faculty at the Center for Public Leadership and senior advisor to The Initiative to Stop Human Trafficking in the Carr Center for Human Rights. Hunt has taught "The Choreography of Social Movements" at Harvard College and "Peacebuilding from the Ground Up" at Harvard Law School, and lectured across the university campus including at the College, the School of Education, Divinity School, and Business School.
An expert on domestic policy and foreign affairs, Hunt is president of Hunt Alternatives Fund, through which she has committed more than $130 million in endowments and grants to provoking social change at local, national, and global levels. The Fund operates out of Cambridge, Massachusetts and is focused on strengthening youth arts organizations, supporting leaders of social movements, bolstering women’s leadership in conflict regions, combating the demand for purchased sex, and increasing philanthropy. Hunt also chairs the Washington-based Institute for Inclusive Security (including the Women Waging Peace Network), which advocates for the full participation of all stakeholders, particularly women, in peace processes. She has conducted research, training, and consultations for women leaders in some 60 countries.
From 1993 to 1997, Hunt served as ambassador to Austria, where she hosted negotiations and international symposia focused on stabilizing the neighboring Balkan states. Later, she became a specialist in the role of women in post-communist Europe; in July 1997, she launched “Vital Voices: Women in Democracy,” a conference convening 320 women leaders in business, law, and politics from 39 countries. The meeting spawned the documentary Voices as well as an ensuing US State Department initiative, led by Madeleine Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and later an NGO with the same name, co-chaired by Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Hutchison (R-TX).
First Lady Hillary Clinton; EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Emma Bonino; the host; and the Foreign Minister of Italy Susanna Agnelli at Vital Voices in Vienna, July 1997
Hunt began her career in 1979 as Minister of Pastoral Care at the Capital Heights Presbyterian Church; she served the ecumenical partnership of two congregations in Denver in the early 1980s. In 1981, she founded Karis Community, a residential program for the mentally ill, and served as its co-director until 1983. In 1986, Hunt co-founded the Colorado Women’s Foundation, which helps fund programs to help women achieve self-sufficiency. From 1988 to 1993, she was chair of the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Housing and the Homeless, a position she was appointed to by Colorado Governor Roy Romer. There she helped create a cohesive initiative of municipal, state, and national government players while working with representatives from the business and nonprofit communities. She was appointed co-chair of the Denver Initiative on Families and Children by Denver Mayor Federico Peña in 1991, where she worked to shape a unified agenda for urban children and their families. In 1992, Hunt was appointed by Denver Mayor Wellington Webb as co-chair of the Human Capital Agenda, an initiative to develop public policy related to education, health, safety, and employment needs through a community-based decision process.
Photograph by Kit Williams
Hunt is active in Democratic politics, focusing on increasing diverse representation. Her passion for mental health reform and advocacy inspired her foray into politics. During Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, she co-chaired “Serious Women, Serious Issues, Serious Money”—widely considered the first time such diverse women came together to provide major financial backing for a national political campaign. Most recently she convened Unconventional Women, a six-hour program featuring more than 20 female political leaders for an audience of 3000 in Denver, concurrent with the Democratic National Convention. Following that, she created (with Katherine Archuleta) Women’s Voting Circles, a program that engaged more than 1200 activists who brought 10,000 of the least likely to vote women to the polls to vote for President Obama. She continues to gather current or potential office holders for substantive discussions with experts and supporters.
Hunt has authored numerous articles for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and others. Her book, This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace, won the 2005 PEN/New England Award for non-fiction and included a foreword by former President Clinton. Her memoir, Half-Life of a Zealot was published in October 2006. Hunt has also provided news commentary and analysis on international and domestic television networks, including CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and CBS Evening News.
Hunt is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of Crisis Group. She holds two master’s degrees, a doctorate in theology, and six honorary degrees. She has received numerous awards from groups as varied as the United Methodist Church, United Way, Anti-Defamation League, American Mental Health Association, National Women’s Forum, International Education Association, Boston Chamber of Commerce, and International Peace Center. In 2007, Hunt was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Hunt’s photographs have been exhibited in more than a dozen one-woman shows in five countries. Her musical composition, "The Witness Cantata," for five soloists and chorus, has had twelve performances in six cities. She was married for 25 years to Charles Ansbacher, international conductor and founder of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Her world includes her three children, three grandchildren, a cat, a parrot, eight horses, and 76 bison (in absentia).