Smithsonian Journeys Experts

Laura Kennedy

photo of Laura Kennedy

Laura Kennedy served almost four decades as a U.S career diplomat with much of her career spent working in or on the former Soviet Union. She also served multiple assignments in Geneva and Vienna on multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation  (conventional, nuclear and biological) as well as a number of temporary assignments at the United Nations in New York. Laura Kennedy’s assignments included Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus 2004-5, Ambassador to Turkmenistan 2001-3, Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva 2010-13 with concurrent service as U.S. Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention issues, Deputy Commandant of the National War College where she also taught for two years 2007-9, Charge d’Affaires in Armenia, and Deputy Political section chief in Moscow and Ankara.

At the outset of her career, Laura was detailed to serve with an official US exchange exhibit in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, an assignment which left her with a deep appreciation for public diplomacy as well as an abiding interest in Central Asia.  She retired in 2013 but was recalled to service in 2014 to head the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan and then the U.S. Mission in Vienna where she served as the U.S. Governor on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. She retired again in 2015.
Laura is an elected member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and serves on the boards of the World Affairs Council in DC, the Arms Control Association, Foreign Policy for America and the Advisory Council of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. She has lectured at various U.S. and international civilian and military institutions and universities and has previously accompanied a Silk Road tour.
After receiving her B.A. from Vassar College, Kennedy did graduate work at Stanford and American University (M.A.).  She is married to a fellow former U.S. diplomat and has two sons.