Statement from President Joe Biden on the Appointment of Catherine Russell as Executive Director of UNICEF
Ambassador Cathy Russell has been a trusted and indispensable advisor to Jill and me for nearly 30 years. In that time, Jill and I have witnessed — and benefited countless times from — Cathy’s leadership, experience, wisdom, and empathy. And it is because of those qualities that I could not be more proud that the UN Secretary-General has announced his intent to appoint her as the next Executive Director of UNICEF.
We will miss Cathy. But our loss is UNICEF’s gain, because children around the world will lead richer, safer, and healthier lives as a direct result of Cathy’s leadership in this new role. As a first-rate public servant, policy expert, and manager who has worked tirelessly to advocate for children and empower women and girls — including as the United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues in the Obama-Biden Administration — Cathy is exceptionally well-prepared to lead UNICEF’s critical work on behalf of young people around the world. UNICEF is lucky to have her.
Under Cathy’s leadership, the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO) has broken records in both speed and diversity of hiring, working relentlessly to ensure that our federal government reflects America and delivers for the American people. I am also pleased that Gautam Raghavan, who has worked in tandem with Cathy from Day One, will become PPO’s new Director — a seamless transition that will enable us to continue building a federal workforce that is efficient, effective, dependable, and diverse.
Cathy Russell Bio
Ambassador Cathy Russell serves as Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. She sat on the Advisory Board of the Biden-Harris Transition Team and served as Vice Chair of the Biden-Harris Campaign.
Before that, Ambassador Russell was a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. During the Obama-Biden administration, Ambassador Russell served for all eight years at the White House and the U.S. Department of State, including as Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and the U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, where she led efforts to integrate women’s issues into US foreign policy.
Previously, she served as the senior advisor on international women’s issues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, as the Staff Director of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as Senior Counsel to Senator Patrick J. Leahy.
Ambassador Russell served on multiple boards and advisory committees, including as board co-chair of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, as board member of Women for Women International, as well as a member of the Sesame Street Global Advisory Group, the Leadership Council for Women in National Security Steering Committee, the National Security Action Advisory Council, the Thomson Reuters Trust Women Foundation, and the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
A native of Pennsylvania, Ambassador Russell graduated from Boston College and the George Washington University Law School.
Gautam Raghavan Bio
Gautam Raghavan has served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel since January 20, 2021. Previously, he was the first employee hired by the Biden-Harris Transition Team where he served as Deputy Head of Presidential Appointments.
Raghavan served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and advised organizations focused on advancing civil rights and social justice, serving as an Advisor to the Biden Foundation and as Vice President of Policy for the Gill Foundation.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, Raghavan served in the White House Office of Public Engagement as liaison to the LGBTQ community as well as the Asian American & Pacific Islander community, as Acting White House Liaison for the U.S. Department of Defense, and as Outreach Lead for the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Working Group.
A first-generation immigrant, Raghavan was born in India, raised in Seattle, and graduated from Stanford University. He is the editor of “West Wingers: Stories from the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House.” He lives with his husband and their daughter in Washington, D.C.