Ambassador James Cunningham ’74
Arents Award Recipient for Excellence in Public Service and Diplomacy
Ambassador James Cunningham ’74 joined the Atlantic Council in May 2015 as a Senior Fellow in the South Asia Center and the Khalilzad Chair, and in May 2016 became a non-resident Senior Fellow. He has served as ambassador and deputy ambassador to Afghanistan, ambassador to Israel, consul general for Hong Kong and Macau, and ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, and served as acting permanent representative to the United Nations for the first nine months of 2001, including on 9/11.
After early tours in Stockholm, Washington, Rome, and the U.S. Mission to NATO, Cunningham was selected by NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner as his chief of staff, serving as an advisor to the secretary general on all NATO issues in the context of nuclear disarmament in Europe, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, and the impending dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Cunningham became deputy political counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. He served as the deputy director, then as director of the State Department Office of European Security and Political Affairs. He was deputy chief of mission at the Embassy in Rome from 1996 to 1999.
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Cunningham graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology. He is the recipient of multiple awards from the State Department, the National Performance Review’s Hammer Award for Innovation in Management, and the President’s Meritorious Service Award. He has received prestigious awards from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the secretary of defense, and the Afghan president. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Asia Society, he retired from government service in December 2014 with the rank of career minister. He is married to Leslie Genier and they have two daughters.