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John O'Keefe

Global Fellow


    January 1, 2020 — December 31, 2023

    Professional affiliation

    U.S. Ambassador (Ret.) to Kyrgyzstan

    Full Biography

    Ambassador (Ret.) John O’Keefe joined the Wilson Center as a Global Fellow in 2020. Before his appointment, he served as Counselor to the Board of Trustees of the Open World Leadership Center, a Legislative Branch Agency from 2018.  Before that, he led Open World as Executive Director from 2007 to 2017, expanding its programs from Russia and Ukraine to include all the countries of the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Turkey, and Mongolia.

    As United States Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan from 2000 to 2003, O’Keefe negotiated the treaty allowing Coalition forces to establish a base there in support of operations in Afghanistan. He also set up an investment advisory council headed by the President of Kyrgyzstan to attract foreign capital, worked with Kyrgyzstan’s President and Minister of Education to make university acceptance merit-based in 2006, and created an embassy outreach program to the Muslim community.

    O’Keefe served as acting Director General of the Department of State in 2006, and then as Deputy Director of the Foreign Service Institute through August 2007. From 2003 through 2005, he was Deputy Assistance Secretary for the Bureau of Human Resources and head of the Office of Career Development and Assignments, where he negotiated rigorous career development requirements for Foreign Service personnel.

    Ambassador O’Keefe has received the Distinguished Honor Award, the Replogle Award for Management improvement, the Presidential Meritorious Service Award, and the Secretary of State Award for Lifetime Achievement as well as several Superior Honor Awards and Meritorious Honor Awards. The American University Central Asia awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

    O’Keefe has a B.A. from Loyola University in Business Administration and Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. He speaks Russian.