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Karen Hughes

Karen Hughes

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Karen Parfitt Hughes is the Global Vice Chair of Burson-Marsteller
Burson-Marsteller is a global public relations and communications firm headquartered in the United States. Burson-Marsteller operates 67 wholly owned offices and 71 affiliate offices in 98 countries across six continents...

. She served as the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 with the rank of ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

. She resides in Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...


Early life

Born in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, she is the daughter of Patricia Rose Scully and Harold Parfitt, the last U.S. Governor of the Panama Canal Zone. After graduating from W. T. White High School, Hughes received her bachelor's degree
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

 from Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University is a private university in Dallas, Texas, United States. Founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, SMU operates campuses in Dallas, Plano, and Taos, New Mexico. SMU is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church...

 in 1977 where she was a member of Alpha Delta Pi
Alpha Delta Pi
Alpha Delta Pi is a fraternity founded on May 15, 1851 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. The Executive office for this sorority is located on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. Alpha Delta Pi is one of the two "Macon Magnolias," a term used to celebrate the bonds it shares with Phi Mu...

 sorority. She worked as a television news reporter from 1977 to 1984. As a reporter, Hughes followed the 1980 presidential campaign. In 1984, she went to work as the Texas press coordinator for the Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

-Bush campaign in the 1984 election
United States presidential election, 1984
The United States presidential election of 1984 was a contest between the incumbent President Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate, and former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate. Reagan was helped by a strong economic recovery from the deep recession of 1981–1982...

. She later became executive director of the Republican Party of Texas
Republican Party of Texas
The Republican Party of Texas is one of the two major political parties in the U.S. State of Texas. It is affiliated with the United States Republican Party. The State Chairman is Steve Munisteri, a retired attorney and businessman from Houston, and the Vice-Chair is Melinda Fredricks of Conroe....


Work with George W. Bush

Since 1994, Hughes has worked with George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

, first as director of his campaign for the office of governor of Texas
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

, and then as a counselor from 2001 to 2002, while he was President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....


Hughes left the Bush administration
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 in July 2002 to return to Texas, but remained in daily contact with the Bush reelection campaign by telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

 and e-mail
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

, and spoke personally with Bush several times a week. In August 2004, Hughes returned to full-time service with the Bush campaign
George W. Bush presidential campaign, 2004
This article is about the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, the former President of the United States and winner of the 2004 Presidential Election. See George W. Bush for a detailed biography and information about his full presidency, and George W. Bush presidential campaign, 2000 for a...

, setting up office on Air Force One
Air Force One
Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign of any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. In common parlance the term refers to those Air Force aircraft whose primary mission is to transport the president; however, any U.S. Air Force aircraft...

, from where she planned the 2004 Republican National Convention
2004 Republican National Convention
The 2004 Republican National Convention, the presidential nominating convention of the Republican Party of the United States, took place from August 30 to September 2, 2004 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York...

 and the late stages of the 2004 election. She has been decorated by The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Morning News is the major daily newspaper serving the Dallas, Texas area, with a circulation of 264,459 subscribers, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported in September 2010...

as "the most powerful woman ever to serve in the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

", and by ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

 as Bush's "most essential advisor."

Ten Minutes from Normal

In March 2004, Hughes published Ten Minutes from Normal, an account of her decision to leave the White House. While promoting her book, she appeared on CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 on April 25, 2004 - the same day as the March for Women's Lives
March for Women's Lives
The March for Women's Lives was a demonstration for reproductive rights and women's rights, held April 25, 2004 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. The National Park Service no longer makes official estimates of attendance after the Million Man March controversy in 1994, so official estimates...

 - and said "I think after September 11th the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life. And President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's try to reduce the number of abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

s, let's increase adoption
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents...

s. And I think those are the kind of policies that the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy, and really the fundamental difference between us and the terror
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 network we fight is that we value every life. It's the founding conviction of our country, that we're endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

As Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy

On March 14, 2005, Bush announced his intention to nominate Hughes for the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy
Public diplomacy
In international relations, public diplomacy or people's diplomacy, broadly speaking, is the communication with foreign publics to establish a dialogue designed to inform and influence. There is no one definition of Public Diplomacy, and may be easier described than easily defined as definitions...

 with the rank of ambassador — a job focused on changing foreigners' perceptions about America. The Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 confirmed her nomination in July 2005.

In her new capacity, Hughes spoke of improving the world's perception of the United States via creation of a "rapid-response unit" and a plan to "forward-deploy regional SWAT
A SWAT team is an elite tactical unit in various national law enforcement departments. They are trained to perform high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers...

 teams". During a town hall meeting
Town hall meeting
A town hall meeting is an American English term given to an informal public meeting. Everybody in a town community is invited to attend, not always to voice their opinions, but to hear the responses from public figures and elected officials about shared subjects of interest. Attendees rarely voted...

 on September 8, 2005, a State Department employee complained that "recently, we've had tremendous amount of difficulty in some cases getting clearance for our ambassadors to speak." Hughes replied, "If they make statements based on something I sent them, they're not going to be called on the carpet."

At the end of her tenure in the State Department, Hughes said that one of her greatest accomplishments had been "transforming public diplomacy
Public diplomacy
In international relations, public diplomacy or people's diplomacy, broadly speaking, is the communication with foreign publics to establish a dialogue designed to inform and influence. There is no one definition of Public Diplomacy, and may be easier described than easily defined as definitions...

 and making it a national security
National security
National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept developed mostly in the United States of America after World War II...

 priority central to everything we do in government". Hughes was the keynote speaker at the October 22, 2007 Public Relations Society of America
Public Relations Society of America
The ' , based in New York City, is the world's largest organization for public relations professionals. The organization has more than 21,000 members, including professionals from public relations agencies, corporations, government, health care institutions, military, professional services firms,...

's International Conference and discussed, "Waging Peace -- The New Paradigm for Public Diplomacy."

2005 tour of the Middle East

Starting with a September 26, 2005 stop in Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Hughes went on a "listening tour" of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 to speak with leaders and people from the region. This was a response to growing fears in America about rampant anti-Americanism
The term Anti-Americanism, or Anti-American Sentiment, refers to broad opposition or hostility to the people, policies, culture or government of the United States...

 in the Middle East. Hughes was the third person chosen for this task by President Bush, following unsuccessful attempts by Charlotte Beers
Charlotte Beers
Charlotte Beers is an American businesswoman and former Under Secretary of State.She was the first female vice-president at the JWT advertising firm, then CEO of Tatham-Laird & Kudner until 1992, and finally CEO of Ogilvy & Mather until 1996...

 and Margaret Tutwiler. For her tour, Hughes asked two Citizen Ambassadors to accompany her. Following an apparently non-selective process, Hughes chose a college student, Tina Karima Daoud, and William O'Brien, a retired high school geography teacher, as the first two Citizen Ambassadors. In her press briefing, Hughes detailed the process by which Ms. Daoud was added to the tour: "I have brought along with me on this trip, as a symbol of things to come, two citizens, one a young Muslim American, Tina Karima who met the very first week in my office when I asked to meet with a group of Muslim students from universities in the Washington area, and she came to that meeting and she followed up and sent me an email and said she was really interested in some of the things I said and could we have lunch? So we had lunch and I talked with her and learned more about her, and discovered that she was already working at the State Department on a small project -- she could tell you exactly what it was -- a fellowship project, but it was in something like -- it was very administrative. And so I said maybe we could get her to come help us with public diplomacy, and so she in fact is now working with us on public diplomacy on that fellowship and is traveling with us on this trip, but I think it's - to show again the importance of our own American young people reaching out to young people across the world, which I hope to foster more of."

On her September 27 stop in Jeddah
Jeddah, Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda is a city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 during a talk with female students, she expressed her wish that women could "fully participate in society" as they do in the United States. In response one of the women said "The general image of the Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 woman is that she isn't happy [...] Well, we're all pretty happy.".

In a press conference in Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

, Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 Hughes incorrectly stated that Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 "had murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people using poison gas." Conventional sources attest that Saddam did order the deaths of several hundred thousand Iraqis during the al-Anfal Campaign
Al-Anfal Campaign
The al-Anfal Campaign , also known as Operation Anfal or simply Anfal, was a genocidal campaign against the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq, led by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and headed by Ali Hassan al-Majid in the final stages of Iran-Iraq War...

 and other violent suppressions, but causalties from his infamous gas attack on Halabja
Halabja poison gas attack
The Halabja poison gas attack , also known as Halabja massacre or Bloody Friday, was a genocidal massacre against the Kurdish people that took place on March 16, 1988, during the closing days of the Iran–Iraq War, when chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government forces in the Kurdish town of...

 numbered in the thousands.

Breast cancer research advocacy

Hughes met business representatives from the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 (U.A.E.) to create the U.S.-U.A.E. Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.

It will develop breast cancer awareness
Breast cancer awareness
Breast cancer awareness is an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer and reduce the disease's stigma by educating people about its symptoms and treatment options...

 campaigns and expand research in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 by linking U.S. medical experts, fundraisers, health research activists and businesses with their U.A.E. counterparts.


In late October 2007, Hughes made it known that she would be resigning from her position in the Bush White House. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush...

 was quoted as saying she accepted the resignation "with a great deal of sadness but also a great deal of happiness for what she has achieved".

Hughes is currently the Vice Chairman of Burson-Marsteller
Burson-Marsteller is a global public relations and communications firm headquartered in the United States. Burson-Marsteller operates 67 wholly owned offices and 71 affiliate offices in 98 countries across six continents...

, a major public relations company.


  1. Rootsweb.com. Record on Karen (Parfitt) Hughes.
  2. Kerry Lauerman. You burn out fast when you demagogue, Salon.com, September 13, 2003.
  3. Interview of Karen Hughes. Transcript of Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, CNN.com, Aired April 5, 2004.
  4. Dana Milbank. Hughes is Varnishing the Nation's Tarnish, The Washington Post, September 9, 2005.
  5. Transcript of Interview of Bob Garfield. Scuttle Diplomacy, On the Media, June 1, 2007.
  6. U.S. Department of State Transcript. Briefing En Route Ankara, Turkey. September 26, 2005
  7. Steven R. Weisman. Saudi Women Have Message for U.S. Envoy, New York Times, September 28, 2005.
  8. Alan Sipress. Hughes Misreports Iraqi History, Washington Post, October 22, 2005.
  9. Elizabeth Kelleher. State's Hughes Joins Dubai Businesswomen To Fight Breast Cancer, U.S. Department of State, November 1, 2006.
  10. USME Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. US Middle East Partnership Website.

External links