Charles Rivkin

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Charles Rivkin
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs
Assumed office
February 13, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Jose W. Fernandez
United States Ambassador to France and Monaco
In office
August 3, 2009 – November 19, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Craig Roberts Stapleton
Succeeded by Jane D. Hartley
Personal details
Born 1962 (age 52–53)
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Yale University (B.A.)
Harvard University (M.B.A.)
Website Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs

Charles H. Rivkin (born 1962) is the current Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 12, 2014, Rivkin assumed office the following day, and was sworn in publicly by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on April 15, 2014.[1] Rivkin's confirmation marks the first time a U.S. ambassador and former CEO has ever led the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. State Department.

Prior to his appointment, Rivkin served for more than four years as the United States Ambassador to France and Monaco where he led America’s first and one of its largest diplomatic missions, which has six constituent posts throughout France and represents over 50 U.S. government agencies and sections.

Early life and education[edit]

Rivkin earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1984 where he graduated with distinction in political science and international relations. During his time at Yale, he was a member of two of Yale's top a cappella groups: the underclassmen Spizzwinks and the all-senior Whiffenpoofs. He then earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1988.[2]

He speaks fluent French and spent years as a youth studying, traveling and working in France, including studying in Rennes, France, with School Year Abroad and working as an intern at Renault. Business interests regularly brought him to Paris or Cannes prior to his appointment as ambassador.[3]

Rivkin is one of four children of William R. Rivkin, the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg under President John F. Kennedy and United States Ambassador to Senegal and Gambia under President Lyndon B. Johnson;[4] and Enid Hammerman,[5] who was the daughter of the owner of one of the largest children's clothing manufacturers at the time.[6] His family has presented the "Rivkin Award" at the United States Department of State since 1968 as a way to honor intellectual courage and constructive dissent in the American Foreign Service.[7] The award was created in part with the help of Charles Rivkin's godfather, Hubert H. Humphrey, after the elder Rivkin's death at 47, in 1967.[2]

Business career[edit]

Prior to entering government service, Rivkin worked in the media sector for over 20 years, serving as president and CEO of award-winning entertainment companies such as The Jim Henson Company, home of the world-renowned "Muppets". He also worked at Wildbrain where he won a BAFTA Award as Executive Producer of the hit TV series Yo Gabba Gabba!.[8] Rivkin helped engineer the sale of The Jim Henson Company to EM.TV in 2000 for nearly $1 billion.[9] His contribution to the television landscape has influenced generations of viewers and helped shape American popular culture.[3]

Political activities[edit]

Rivkin served as an at-large California delegate for Senator John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and for Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[7] Rivkin was the California finance co-chair for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.[2]

Ambassador to France[edit]

Ambassador Rivkin's service in France came at one of the bilateral relationship's strongest moments in recent history.[10][11] To honor the legacy of Franco-American friendship and to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Allied invasion of mainland Europe during World War II, Ambassador Rivkin took part in a mass parachute jump over the coast of Normandy on June 3, 2012.[12][13] During his 12,000-foot jump, Rivkin was accompanied by members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team.[14] An estimated crowd of 25,000 watched Rivkin land in a field near Sainte-Mère-Église amidst heavy winds, as he became the first U.S. Ambassador to France to jump from a plane in honor of the troops who fought on D-Day.[15] In support of the U.S. Navy, Rivkin became the first U.S. Ambassador to take off and land on a Navy aircraft carrier in an F-18 Super Hornet when he participated in a training exercise with naval aviators on the USS Eisenhower in March 2013.[16]

According to the Department of State Office of Inspector General’s report in May 2012, Ambassador Rivkin placed new emphasis on support for U.S. exports of goods and services into France.[17] The report called Rivkin a "dynamic and visionary noncareer Ambassador", and credited him with expanding the U.S. Embassy’s public diplomacy activities, particularly through his use of social media and his appearances on French national television.[17] Ambassador Rivkin introduced social media to Embassy Paris, establishing its first ever Facebook[18] and Twitter accounts.[19][20]

As ambassador, Rivkin made youth outreach one of his key priorities and connected the embassy to the next generation of leaders throughout France, including in disadvantaged communities in the banlieues outside larger cities.[21] Ambassador Rivkin organized a series of seminars for French youth, inviting them to meet with prominent American government officials, actors and musicians. Beginning with actor Samuel L. Jackson’s April 2010 visit with students in Bondy, an economically depressed Parisian suburb, Ambassador Rivkin set up seminars with Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, as well as Woody Allen, Jodie Foster, of the Black Eyed Peas, Robert Zemeckis, Allen Stone, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and many others.[17][22] "Much of the embassy's outreach is meant to dispel 'mistruths' about the United States", Ambassador Rivkin said in an interview, adding, "It's easier to hate something you don't understand".[22] In January 2012, Ambassador Rivkin broadened his outreach efforts by creating the Washburne Award for Innovation in Diversity, recognizing one French and one American company for their best practices in fostering diversity in hiring practices.[23]

On July 16, 2013, French President François Hollande awarded Ambassador Rivkin the rank of Commander in the Légion d'honneur at the Elysée Palace. Rivkin is the first U.S. Ambassador in half a century to receive the decoration from a sitting French president.[24]

Personal life[edit]

In 1990, Rivkin married Susan M. Tolson.[25] They live in Washington, D.C., and have two children, Elias and Lily.


  1. ^ Secretary Kerry's Remarks at Assistant Secretary Charles Rivkin's Swearing-in Ceremony
  2. ^ a b c "New U.S. Envoy Takes Up Post" by Brian Knowlton, The New York Times, Aug. 16, 2009. Retrieved 8/16/09.
  3. ^ a b "US Embassy France". 2011-09-12. 
  4. ^ "Ms. Tolson Wed To Charles Rivkin" Aug. 5, 1990, The New York Times.
  5. ^ Chicago Tribune: "Enid H. Long, 71 - Served on college board, medical relief missions" By James Janega January 29, 2002
  6. ^ Chicago Tribune: "Robert Rivkin takes on challenge of Toyota inquest with Transportation Department - Chicago attorney’s family ties to national politics run deep" By Melissa Harris
  7. ^ a b announcement
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Henson tab near $1 bil", Variety, 24 February 2000
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Interview: «Cooperation Has Reached an Unprecedented Level»", Les Echos, 26 March 2013.
  12. ^ "US ambassador marks D-Day with Normandy parachute jump". MSNBC. 
  13. ^ "U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin marks D-Day with a parachute jump" (Video). YouTube. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  14. ^ "U.S. ambassador to France joins paratroopers for 12,000ft skydive over Normandy to celebrate D-Day anniversary". The Daily Mail. June 4, 2012. 
  15. ^ "US ambassador in D-Day jump". The Connexion. June 4, 2012. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c "Office of Inspector General's Report on Embassy Paris, May 2012". 
  18. ^ "Embassy Paris Facebook page". 
  19. ^ "Embassy Paris Twitter account". 
  20. ^ "Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin's Twitter account". 
  21. ^ "How the U.S. Engages with French 'Banlieues'", Le Parisien, 26 January 2013.
  22. ^ a b Sayare, Scott (Sep 22, 2010). "Feeling Slighted by France, and Respected by the U.S.". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ "Un plan coordonné en faveur de l'innovation | Nos amis américains | Prix Washburne", Le Monde, 30 May 2013.
  24. ^ "US Embassy France Internet page". 2013-07-26. 
  25. ^

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Craig Roberts Stapleton
United States Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Jane D. Hartley