Pru Bushnell promotes innovative thinking about leadership and policy making, particularly among women and national security specialists. Audiences across the country – academics, students, world affairs councils, Rotary and Kiwanis club members – have applauded her political insights and story-telling abilities as she introduced them to her book, “Terrorism, Resilience and Betrayal and Resilience: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings.” Her lessons resonate as the post 9/11 wars continue to shatter the lives of millions of people, affect the well-being of veterans, increase the national debt, and show no good end in sight. The description of policy tensions in Washington, D.C. as a genocide raged in Rwanda in 1994, highlights the difference between “doing things right” and “doing the right thing,” and remains relevant today.
As she marketed her book in 2019 and participated in interviews and discussions commemorating the genocide in Rwanda, Pru concluded that traditional “hard” and “soft” alternatives to transnational threats and human security challenges are inadequate. She devised a S.M.A.R.T. analytic approach, which stands for Strategic. Moral. Achievable. Reliable. Transformative., to encourage new ways of addressing old problems. She also advocates avoiding S.T.U.P.I.D. (Short-term. Traditional. Unsuccessful. Policies. Ignoring. Data).
A management trainer before she joined the U.S. Foreign Service, Pru introduced leadership training to the Department of State in the mid-1980s before serving for fifteen years in senior positions in the Department of State and American embassies. What she learned from the Washington policy failures to mitigate the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 contributed to her leadership response as U.S. ambassador when al Qaeda attacked the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (1998) and later as ambassador to Guatemala and Dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute.
Pru’s written works on leadership and terrorism appear in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, the Journal of American Diplomacy, the New York Times, the Cambridge University Press, and the Foreign Service Journal. Pru founded the Levitt Leadership Institute at Hamilton College in 2012 and continues to be sought out as a speaker, advisor and mentor.
Her efforts to bring attention to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda were featured in the 2005 film, “Sometimes in April,” in which she is portrayed by actress Debra Winger, and the 2019 documentary, “Retours a Kigali.” She is one of three ambassadors highlighted in the National Geographic special, “Inside an Embassy.”
Born in Washington, DC & educated in Germany, France, Pakistan & Iran, Ambassador Bushnell currently lives in the Washington, DC area.
- Leadership Consultant
- Dean of the Leadership & Management School at the Foreign Service Institute (2002-2005)
- Ambassador to the Republic of Guatemala (1999-2002)
- Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya (1996-1999)
- Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1993-1996)
Awards & Recognition
- “20 All Time Greatest Feds,” Government Executive Magazine (2011)
- “Rising Voice of Women Award,” Women’s International Associates of Chicago (2010)
- Service to America Career Achievement Award (2002)
- Peace through Commerce Award (1998)
- Nairobi Mission Award for Heroism (1998)
- Numerous internal awards from the Department of State (1981-2005)
- Hall of Fame, Vanity Fair Magazine (1998)
- Top Ten Women of the Year, Glamour Magazine (1998)
- Honorary Doctorates from Hartwick College, Russell Sage College, & Misericordia University
- B.A. in Liberal Arts, University of Maryland
- M.S. in Public Administration, Russell Sage College
- “Leadership and Policy Making: Lessons from the U.S. Government,” Brown Journal of World Affairs. June 2019
- “Operation Vittles: A Recipe Book. An Airlift. A Song.” Journal of American Diplomacy. May 2019
- “Reflections on the U.S. Embassy Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania,” The Foreign Service Journal. July-Aug 2018
- “One Story, Two Events, Seven Leadership Lessons,” The Foreign Service Journal. Jan-Feb 2017
- “Our Diplomats Deserve Better,” The New York Times, September 13, 2012
- “Leadership at State: A Work in Progress,” The Foreign Service Journal, November 2011
- “Leadership at State: The Neglected Dimension,” The Foreign Service Journal, September 1989
- “Leadership in Disasters,” with Brian W. Flynn and Prudence Bushnell, Nicole Lurie, Textbook of Disaster Psychiatry. Edited by Robert J. Ursano, Carol S. Fullerton, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Maryland, Lars Weisaeth, Universitetet i Oslo, Beverley Raphael, Australian National University, Canberra. Cambridge University Press, 2017. pp 285-297
- MSN (2019): Why Official Record Keeping is Crucial at the State Department
- Telerama.fr (2019): Retours a Kigali
- Frontline (2003): Ghosts of Rwanda
- The Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training: The Irrepressible Prudence Bushnell
- The Washington Post, On Leadership (2013): Prudence Bushnell on Being a Diplomat