Ambassador Cook gave the keynote address earlier this year at the Annual Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon
Suzan Johnson Cook is set to announce her retirement from her position as the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom after 17 months on the job. That’s according to two sources close to Cook’s office.
Cook, a former Baptist minister, was nominated for the top advisor position by President Obama. The position’s responsibility is to protect religious freedom all around the world. When she was confirmed by the Senate in April 2011, Cook became the first African-American and female to be in the position. Only two other people have held this position.
Obama was criticized for the time it took after his swearing-in to nominate someone as the religious freedom ambassador, a position that was created because of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Just last month Cook was interviewed on PBS about religion-based violent attacks throughout the world.
Obama initially nominated her in June 2010; but, in January 2011, her nomination ended and he chose to re-nominate her for the position.
In the nomination process, Cook compared herself to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She said Thatcher was known as the “Iron Lady”, and is quoted as saying “Change the name. It’s mine now.”
Obama’s nomination of Cook came with criticism; because even though she had powerful religious credentials and is affiliated with the Clintons’ political network, Cook had next to nothing when it comes to diplomatic experience.
Cook does have a track record for being a high-level counselor, advising Bill Clinton during his presidency as his White House fellow on the Domestic Policy Council, and working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary on faith-based matters.
She also established the Wisdom Women Worldwide center, which is an international association for female faith leaders. In the process of the Senate confirmation hearing, Cook said she has traveled to five continents, leading interfaith delegations in the Caribbean, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
Cook said the country’s diplomacy in regards to religious freedom didn’t just have to involve bringing government leaders together but working alongside international religious leaders to influence their political leaders.
The unnamed sources said they were not sure what Cook’s plans were next or who is likely to be nominated to replace her in the position.
- International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
- Domestic Policy Council
- Fighting for International Religious Freedom to End Persecution