At a Glance
- Career History: U.S. Ambassador to Russia (2005 to 2008); Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (2001 to 1005); U.S. ambassador to Jordan (1998 to 2001)
- Alma Mater: La Salle University, BA, 1978; Oxford University, 1982
Path to Power
Burns attended La Salle University's honors program in Philadelphia, and was considered a star by his professors. "He was one of the best, if not the best student, I ever taught," John Rossi, who's taught history at La Salle for more than 40 years, told La Salle's alumni magazine. "There was nothing he couldn't do. His exams were letter perfect and brilliantly written. His handwriting was almost script, and beautifully done. And he was very unassuming."
Burns graduated in 1978 with a political science degree then continued to Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. He earned his Ph.D in international relations in 1982, and entered the U.S. Foreign Service soon after.
Burns has worked on diplomatic missions all over the world. He has focused particularly on the Middle East, which underwent major change in 2011, and national security.
Burns' first book explored the relationship between Egypt and the United States. When Gamal Abdel Nasser decided in 1955 to engage in the Cold War by trading cotton for Soviet weapons, the U.S. sprung into action. This launched an American effort to convince Egypt to side with America. The U.S. spent three decades throwing foreign aid to the country. Burns concluded that aid can be a powerful diplomatic tool, one that is often underused by American diplomats.
Burns is widely respected in the foreign policy community. He was former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's top deputy. His wife Lisa Carty is a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a centrist foreign policy think-tank.
If he replaces Jim Steinberg as deputy secretary of state, he'll be working closely with the department's other deputy, Thomas Nides.