Dina Powell

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Dina Habib Powell
Dina Habib Powell, Head, Impact Investing Business, Goldman Sachs; President, Goldman Sachs Foundation (19459892442).jpg
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy
Assumed office
March 15, 2017
Serving with K. T. McFarland
Ricky L. Waddell
President Donald Trump
Leader H. R. McMaster
Preceded by Position established
Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives
Assumed office
January 20, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by John Podesta (2015)
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs
In office
July 11, 2005 – June 7, 2007
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Patricia Harrison
Succeeded by Goli Ameri
Personal details
Born Dina Habib
1973 (age 43–44)
Cairo, Egypt
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Richard Powell
Children 2
Education University of Texas, Austin (BA)

Dina Habib Powell (born Dina Habib Arabic: دينا حبيب‎‎ ; born 1973) is an Egyptian-American non-profit executive, philanthropist, and U.S. policymaker. She is the current U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy[1] to President Donald Trump.[2][3] She is also an Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives.[4]

Prior to accepting these White House positions, Powell was a managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs[3][5] and president of their non-profit subsidiary, the Goldman Sachs Foundation.[6] Before that, she served in the George W. Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Deputy Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, and an Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel.[3][7]

Powell was born in Egypt and immigrated with her family to Texas when she was four years old.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Coptic Cairo

Dina Habib was born in Cairo, Egypt to a middle-class, Coptic Christian family.[7][9] Her father was a captain in the Egyptian Army, and her mother had attended American University in Cairo.[7] As both wanted the best for their daughters,[7][10] Dina Habib at the age of four came to the United States with her parents and her younger sister.[8] Dina knew no English.[7]

The Habib family settled in Dallas, Texas, where they had relatives among the Coptic community there; the parents ran a convenience store.[7] While Dina quickly learned English at school, her family insisted that she be raised with Egyptian culture and language as well.[7][11] As a result, she is fluent in Arabic.[2] Of her parents' actions, she later said, "I so desperately wanted a turkey and cheese sandwich with potato chips, and instead I always got grape leaves and hummus and falafel, not even in a cool brown paper bag. And now, of course, I appreciate so much that I did."[7] Each of the family members became a naturalized citizen of the United States.[8] She attended the prep school for girls Ursuline Academy of Dallas,[9] from which she graduated in 1991.[11]

University of Texas at Austin

She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, more specifically the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts, where she enrolled in the Liberal Arts Plan I honors program, studying a mixture of humanities, sociology, political science, and criminology.[11] She performed community service both as part of her program and her membership in the Delta Delta Delta sorority.[11]

Dina Habib helped pay for school by working as a legislative assistant for two Republican members of the Texas State Senate: O.H. "Ike" Harris and Jerry E. Patterson.[11] With them, she worked on a number of policy matters, including juvenile justice reform.[11] She had grown up in a family that strongly identified with the Republican Party and that had greatly admired Ronald Reagan.[12] She adopted the same views, later recalling that "... when I started to work with Republicans I realised that I agree with the views of personal empowerment, of less government involvement, of having the ability to talk about things without the government necessarily being involved. And on the economic side I'm definitely a believer that people should spend more of their money and spend it the way they think so and invest it wisely."[12]

For her honors thesis, she wrote about the value of mentoring on juvenile delinquents.[11] She graduated from U. of Texas with honors with a bachelor's degree in Humanities[13] from its College of Liberal Arts in 1995.[14]

Early government and political positions[edit]

An internship with the U.S. Senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison, represented a turning point in Dina Habib's life.

Habib had applied to, and been accepted by, a law school.[15] However, in part due to her fluency in Arabic, she received an offer of a year-long internship with the U.S. Senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison.[16][15][7] Much to the consternation of her parents, who wanted her to become an engineer, doctor, or lawyer, she deferred the school and accepted the internship,[15] moving to Washington, D.C. in the process.[11] This began a chain of political and governmental positions that would span a decade or more and she never came to the study of law.[10] Hutchison later said of Powell, "She is extraordinary and she has gone so far since that first little internship because she is so graceful."[9]

After the internship concluded, she took a job with Dick Armey, the Republican Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.[7] There she worked as a member of his leadership staff.[11] Armey later said, "We immediately recognized her brains and her ability, and then her charm, and finally, I think somebody noticed she was gorgeous, too."[7] Armey's was one among a number of remarks that various governmental officials have made regarding not just her professional abilities but also her physical attractiveness.[17]

After that, she took a job with the Republican National Committee where she was Director of Congressional Affairs and helped to find positions for Republicans in lobbying firms.[13][7] As part of this role she became involved in the George W. Bush presidential campaign, 2000.[11]

Marriage and family[edit]

She married Richard C. Powell; a man who works in public relations, who became a managing director of the Washington-based Quinn Gillespie & Associates.[11]

The couple has two daughters born in 2002 and 2006.[3] In 2007 the couple purchased a $3.85 million condominium apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.[18]

Bush administration[edit]

White House personnel office[edit]

Official White House photo during Bush years

While working at the RNC, Powell was spotted by Clay Johnson III, who would come to be in charge of hiring for the George W. Bush administration.[19] The day after the election Johnson called Powell regarding the presidential transition,[11] even though the result was mired in uncertainty. Once in office, Johnson took her on as a Deputy Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel.[19] During the following year, Powell's parents visited a Marine One landing on the South Lawn of the White House; after Powell had the president introduce himself to them on the rope line, they were overwhelmed with emotion.[11] Powell later said, "It affirmed for them the tough decision to leave everything they knew behind. In what other country could an immigrant family go from risking it all to one day having their daughter work for the president?"[8]

Powell reviewing papers in the Oval Office with Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, circa January 2005

Beginning in January 2003, Johnson moved up and elsewhere in the administration and Powell took on his position, thereby serving as the Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel, a senior staff member at the White House.[7] In this role, she was responsible for assisting the President on the appointments of the cabinet, subcabinet and ambassadorial positions across the U.S. Government.[7] She had a staff of 35 reporting to her and, especially once the second term of the Bush presidency began in January 2005, was part of hiring some 4,000 people.[17][7][8] She participated in some of the recommendations process as well as processing the applications, and was part of the inner circle of knowledge regarding who would be hired along with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and political mind Karl Rove.[7] At age 29, she was the youngest person ever to hold this position.[17] She praised the family-friendly practices of the Bush White House, as well as support from her husband, for giving her the chance to be a successful working mother.[8]

Powell holding the Bible as John Negroponte is sworn in as Director of National Intelligence in early 2005. Presidential George W. Bush looks on.

The experience of her job confirmed her belief that the United States is a meritocracy.[8] Some of the recommendations she made for the U.S. State Department put her in good stead with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.[3] (This led to a series of appointments in which Powell's foreign policy experience would be forged under Secretary Rice,[20][21] as the following paragraphs describe.) U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, a businessman whom Powell recruited for that Cabinet position, said: "In a nutshell, Dina Powell is probably one of the most talented people I've ever met in my life."[19]

Department of State[edit]

In March 2005, Powell received a new assignment, which included becoming an ambassador of sorts to the Arabic-speaking world.[19] News of the appointment landed on the front page of Al-Ahram and made her a celebrity in Egypt.[19] This position was that Powell became, and subsequently served as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs from July 11, 2005, through June 6, 2007.[13][22] Powell was also designated by Secretary Rice to the office of Deputy Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. In addition, Powell led the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs,[13] in whose responsibility fell the Fulbright Program and similar foreign endeavors.[19] In her role, Powell traveled worldwide with Secretary Rice, but mostly focused on going to the Middle East.[23]

First Lady Laura Bush talking to Assistant Secretary Powell during the fifth meeting of the U.S. Afghan Women's Council at the State Department, July 2006, in Washington, D.C.

During this period, Powell established several public-private partnerships between American corporations and foreign entities, including a U.S.-Lebanon partnership in the wake of the 2006 war there that sought to help rebuild the local economy.[3] These may have been under the aegis of the Middle East Partnership Initiative. In addition she brought into being some cultural exchanges between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, including Iranian doctors coming west and a U.S. wrestling team going east.[3] She was responsible for bringing in scholars from other nation-states as well.[9] Powell worked to establish the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership, which connected up-and-coming female leaders with the community of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summits.[9] This was a joint venture between the State Department and Fortune magazine that would go on to be honored over the next decade.[24]

In 2007, she left the White House and government service, saying "It's the right time for me and my family."[3] She had been the highest-ranking Arab-American in the Bush administration.[3] Secretary Rice said, "I'm really sorry to lose her. She is fantastic. She had so many ideas. There are people who have ideas but can't execute them. She really executed them."[3] The Washington Post assayed that Dina Habib Powell had "played a critical role in the administration's efforts to bolster public diplomacy in the face of the wave of anti-Americanism that has swept the Arab world since the U.S. invasion of Iraq."[3] Powell would later join the Advisory Council of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.[25]

Goldman Sachs[edit]

Powell joined Goldman Sachs in 2007 as a managing director[3] and was named partner in 2010,[5] thus achieving one of the most highly sought-after prizes in American finance.[26] Powell has conceded that she joined Goldman Sachs despite having no background in the subject of finance, but has said that her entire career has been guided by the notion of not planning a lot but rather "just taking that leap of faith."[16]

Powell oversaw the firm’s impact investing business and served as the president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation beginning in 2010.[27] This was in addition to her responsibilities as global head of the Office of Corporate Engagement and a member of the Goldman Sachs Partnership Committee.[28]

As leader of Goldman Sachs Impact Investing, Powell was responsible for a business with more than $4 billion in housing and community development investments across the U.S.[29][30]

Gary Cohn, president and COO, Goldman Sachs; James Dimon, chairman, president and CEO, JP Morgan; Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, JP Morgan Asset Management; and Dina Habib Powell, in January 2013

In her role as president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, Powell led one of the world’s largest corporate foundations with over $500 million in assets.[31] Powell helped build and was responsible for all the Foundation’s initiatives supporting and developing entrepreneurs around the world, including 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses.[32] 10,000 Women provides women entrepreneurs in developing countries with business education, access to capital and mentors.[33][34] Under Powell, Goldman Sachs partnered with International Finance Corporation and Overseas Private Investment Corporation to raise 600 million dollars, to provide access to capital for more than 100,000 women worldwide.[35] To realize this project, Powell worked closely with the State Department.[23]

Goldman's 10,000 Small Businesses, which was co-chaired by Lloyd Blankfein, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, supports the growth and expansion of small business in the U.S. and UK.[36][37] When asked why he decided to participate, Warren Buffett said. “In a very, very nice way, [Powell] gets all the rest of us to work quite hard.” [31] Part of Goldman Sachs' rationale for these two publicized programs was to repair its image following the 2008 global financial crisis.[6]

Earning a salary of $2 million as president of the foundation, Powell engendered some disapproving comments within the firm from those who thought the pay package too large given she was not an earner.[6] However, her compensation was in line with those top people in other high-monied charities.[6]

Powell also led Goldman Sachs Gives, a donor-advised fund through which the firm's current and retired partners can recommend grants in support of communities around the world. Goldman Sachs Gives was established in 2007 and structured as a vehicle to consolidate Goldman Sachs partners’ charitable giving.[38]

During her time at Goldman Sachs, Powell joined the boards of directors or trustees of the Harvard Business School's Social Enterprise Initiative,[39] the American University in Cairo,[40] the Center for Global Development,[41] Vital Voices,[42] and the Nightingale-Bamford School.[41] Dina Habib Powell is listed as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations[43] and a member of the Trilateral Commission.[44]

Powell has worked productively with Democrats such as Obama administration advisors Valerie Jarrett and Gene Sperling.[45] A number of other Democrats are on good terms with her as well.[45] Publisher and progressive voice Arianna Huffington has spoken highly of Powell.[46]

Trump administration[edit]

Senior advisor[edit]

Powell had no relationship with the incoming chief executive or his family until after the shocking result of the United States presidential election, 2016.[16] Then, by Powell's account, she got an out-of-nowhere call from Ivanka Trump, who was interested in the metrics by which the success of 10,000 Women had been judged.[24] She thus became involved with the incoming administration's transition period, particularly with regard to the empowerment of women and girls and the potentialities of female entrepreneurship.[9][47] By another accounting, the two may have been connected through hedge fund manager David McCormick.[25] Regardless, she quickly became one of Ivanka's most trusted advisors;[16] the New Tork Times called Powell the first daughter's "all-around guide in the administration."[48]

Powell in May 2017, clapping in celebration at House of Representatives passage of the AHCA with other top administration domestic and political advisors.

Starting January 20, 2017, Powell began serving as Senior Advisor to the President for Entrepreneurship, Economic Growth and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so she became one of the few Bush administration officials to join this new administration.[20] Powell relocated from New York City to Washington as part of taking this job.[49] In this role she led a joint American-Canadian program to advance the role of women in business,[23] making reference to what was formally called the United States-Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.[47] This efforting involved Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well.[47] Another Powell involvement involved a listening session on the related topics of domestic and international human trafficking.[47]

She was visible outside that scope of her role per se when she was part of a meeting between the chief executive and Saudi defense minister Mohammed bin Salman.[2] She subsequently shared responsibility for overseeing a $200 billion worths amount of U.S.-Saudi deals.[50] She continued to assist Ivanka, in particular in introducing her to the politically connected including some of the just defeated.[49] Powell's network of contacts in the financial, corporate, and governmental worlds proved a valuable asset for the new administration[51] and she assisted in a few of the early hires.[49] Another such hire in late April 2017 was for a chief-of-staff for Ivanka, that being someone Powell knew from 10,000 Women.[52] Powell commented regarding Ivanka's staff, "We’re all one team. We all work on these initiatives together."[52]

National Security Council[edit]

Powell (at far right) during the April 2017 Syrian missile strike operation[53] Her being the only woman present attracted notice.[20]

On March 15, 2017, Powell was named to the post of Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy,[1] all the while retaining her economic position as well.[20] In this new role she was seen as a possible rival to the existing Deputy, former commentator K. T. McFarland.[23] It was expected that her brief would focus on fostering inter-agency cooperation, but how her lack of a national security background, and the fact that her past administration experiences that revolved around the use of soft power would play out in a new administration dedicated to the use of hard power, was unclear.[23]

Within the White House factional battles between the forces of Steve Bannon against those of Jared Kushner, Powell was seen as aligned with the relative moderates, those being Kushner, Ivanka, and fellow Goldman Sachs figure Gary Cohn,[54][55][56] with Cohn as well as Kushner being a faction leader.[57] Bannon has criticized the four as "Democrats" and "globalists", although Powell, at least, has solid bona fides as a Republican and was defended by several Republican senators as a principled conservative.[55] Longtime Republican operative Charlie Black additionally said, “It’s important for people to understand Dina Powell worked for Dick Armey and George W. Bush. She’s no liberal.”[56] Powell also has considerably more experience in government than the others in this group of four.[51]

In April 2017 the New York Times labeled Powell a "rising star" in the national security establishment,[53] an appellation echoed by Vogue magazine,[47] while the Associated Press wrote that "Dina Powell has quietly established herself as a White House power."[20] Additionally, the Washington Post wrote that "she is one of the most interesting figures in the new administration."[24] In part this level of attention was because in that month, McMaster elevated the Deputy for Strategy position to a higher role within the NSC, meaning that Powell came to attend both the Principals Committee and National Security Council Deputies Committee.[58][20] At the same time McMaster arranged for the imminent departure of McFarland.[58]

Powell during a May 2017 meeting with Egyptian officials that took place in Saudi Arabia

Powell was one of the key figures in securing the release of Egyptian aid worker Aya Hijazi.[16] Regarding the May 2017 report of a Donald Trump revelation of classified information to Russia, which she was present in the room during, she stated: "This story is false."[59] She was among the top officials escorting the chief executive on his first foreign trip, which started with a two-day stay in Saudi Arabia.[60][61] Her prior experience in government and her set of contacts in the Arab world played a key role in making the first part of the trip a successful venture.[62] As one connected former official said, "A normal White House would have a larger cohort of experienced people, so Dina’s own experience means she’s more valuable — and more influential."[62]

Awards and honors[edit]

Powell being presented with her “Outstanding American by Choice” award in 2007.

Dina Habib Powell was selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders.[13]

She received the Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award in 2006.[14]

In 2007, Powell was presented with an American by Choice Award during a special naturalization ceremony performed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; the award recognizes outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens.[63]

In 2017 she was the honored speaker for a State Department dinner in acknowledgment of the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership.[16] At the same time Working Mother named her as one of the 50 Most Powerful Moms of 2017.[64]


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  35. ^ "OPIC Announces Plans to Join Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and IFC in the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility, Committing $100 Million to Enable 100,000 Women to Access Capital" (Press release). OPIC. July 27, 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
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  50. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-to-announce-saudi-arms-deal-during-his-first-foreign-trip/
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  53. ^ a b David E. Sanger, "Who Was in the Room? These Advisers Joined Trump for the Syria Strike", The New York Times, April 7, 2017.
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  63. ^ "Secretary Rice to Address Special Naturalization Ceremony; Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Dina Habib Powell to Receive American by Choice Award" (Press release). U.S. Department of State. 2007-04-20. Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  64. ^ http://www.redonline.co.uk/red-women/news-in-brief/the-50-most-influential-moms-of-2017

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Patricia Harrison
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs
Succeeded by
Goli Ameri
Title last held by
John Podesta
as Counselor to the President
Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives
January 20, 2017–March 15, 2017
Served alongside: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway
Succeeded by
Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway