Ambassador Susan Johnson Cook spoke about the role of women in faith issues.
During her talk Ambassador Cook discussed how women are continually getting more involved in negotiations and how they have proven their competence and importance in working towards increased religious freedom.
The Ambassador urges women to get active in politics. She explains that women have spent a long time watching the negotiation process without getting involved, but they have learned from their observations, and it is time for them to become active. To illustrate her point she tells a story from her youth, likening diplomacy to playing basketball when she was a child. “In those days only guys played. And women didn’t play, and if they did they were called tomboys. And I would go out there every single day and watch the guys play. And one day a guy came up and said to me ‘baby girl if you wanna learn the game you gotta get off the sidelines and get in the game.’ and I went in and got a three pointer right then.”
Appointed by President Barack Obama as the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook is the principal advisor to both the President of the United States and Secretary of State for Religious Freedom globally. She is the first African American and the first female to hold this position. She is the 3rd Ambassador at Large, since its creation under the 1998 IRF Act.
Prior to joining the Department of State, Ambassador Johnson Cook served as the senior pastor and CEO of the Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York City from 1996-2010. She was also the founder and president of Wisdom Women Worldwide Center, a global center for female faith leaders and the owner of Charisma Speakers, a cross cultural communications firm and speakers bureau.
She has had three Presidential appointments, two appointments from Cabinet Secretaries and a United States Senate confirmation. In 1993, Johnson Cook was a White House Fellow on the Domestic Policy Council. In that role, she advised President Bill Clinton on a range of issues including homelessness, violence, and community empowerment. She also worked with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on faith based initiatives from 1994 until 1997. President Clinton appointed her in 1997 to serve on his National Initiative on Race as its only faith advisor.
Johnson Cook held the position of Chaplain to the New York City Police Department for twenty-one years, the only woman to serve in that role. She was on the front lines of 9/11. She was also a founder and board member of the Multi-Ethnic Center in New York City. For three decades she served as senior pastor to three New York City congregations: Mariners Temple Baptist Church from1983-1996, Bronx Christian fellowship 1996-2010 and a lunchtime congregation on Wall Street since 1996. She served as professor at New York Theological Seminary from 1988-1996 and an officer at Harvard, serving as, Associate Dean and Professor at Harvard Divinity School.
Johnson Cook is the recipient of several awards, including the Woman of Conscience Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Visionary Leader’s Award, the Judith Hollister Peace Award, and the Hellenic Award for Public Service, and has also authored ten books. She received her Bachelor of Science in Speech from Emerson College in Boston in 1976 and a Master of Arts from Columbia University Teachers College in New York City in 1978. She completed a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, in 1983 and 1990, respectively. She was a Sam Proctor Fellow and a Harvard University President’s Administrative Fellow, both in 1990 and 1991.
The talk was moderated by Peter Kovach, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer.