The Washington Post

Michelle Kwan, bureaucrat: Skating champ now has State Department job

Michelle Kwan at the Washington Post Live event Wednesday. (Jeff Martin for Washington Post Live)

About a year and a half after moving to D.C., the former Olympian is launched on a career track, with a new job this fall at the State Department. Official title: Senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs.

“People say it’s a 180 for me,” Kwan told us. “But I traveled the world representing the U.S. for years.”

It’s a role she’s been transitioning into. While winding down her career as the nation’s most decorated figure skater, Kwan pursued a graduate degree at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In 2007, the State Department tapped her starpower by naming her a public-diplomacy envoy; other unpaid but high-profile roles followed with State’s council to promote women’s sports worldwide and the White House advisory panel on fitness.

We caught up with Kwan, 32, after she spoke during a Washington Post Live conference on women and leadership Wednesday. Does she see herself with State for the long haul? You never know in politics, she said, but “I’m very goal-oriented. I do see myself doing something in public service.”

Not foreign service work, though. “I like living in the United States too much,” she said.

Kwan shared with her seminar audience one little career disappointment: She was turned down for a White House fellowship. “But I got the fellow,” she joked — fiancé Clay Pell, who beat her out for the prestigious program and now works there. No date set yet, but she said they’ll probably wed in Rhode Island — where he’s from, and where they got engaged — sometime next year.

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