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Utah Governor Jon Huntsman held a town-hall style speaking event in the Huntsman Program building. Credit: Alex Remnick

Two more members of the Penn community received political appointments from President Barack Obama and will try to make their mark in international affairs.

Penn alumnus and governor of Utah Jon Huntsman Jr., was nominated by Obama as the United States ambassador to China, and Penn Law professor William Burke-White has been appointed to a policy position in the U.S. Department of State.

Avery Goldstein, the chair of the Political Science department, wrote in an e-mail that the appointments demonstrate the impact members of the Penn community can make on the world.

“Though their paths to public service differ, Governor Huntsman and Professor Burke-White are two outstanding examples of the ways the Penn experience has an impact extending well beyond the ivory tower,” Goldstein wrote.

Huntsman — who graduated from the College in 1987 — has been the governor of Utah since 2004.

He has served as an ambassador twice before — as U.S. ambassador to Singapore from 1992-1993, and as U.S. trade ambassador during former President George W. Bush’s first term.

Huntsman also served as a White House staff assistant to former President Ronald Reagan and has previously held appointments in both the State and Commerce Departments.

According to Goldstein, Huntsman is also uniquely qualified for the ambassadorship because he is fluent in Mandarin, which he learned while doing missionary work in Taiwan.

At the announcement of his nomination, Huntsman said he was surprised to be chosen by Obama because Huntsman was the national co-chairman of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign against Obama.

Nonetheless, Huntsman said he takes the appointment seriously.

“When the president of the United States asks you to step up and serve in a capacity like this, that to me is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation to rise to the challenge,” Huntsman said when he was appointed.

Burke-White’s appointment is to a position in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Office of Foreign Policy Planning. The office “serves as the Secretary’s internal think-tank, providing her with direct and independent policy advice,” Burke-White wrote in an e-mail.

Burke-White added that he will advise Secretary Clinton on issues pertaining to Russia and international law, areas that are related to his academic work.

While his appointment will result in a two-year leave of absence from the law school, Burke-White wrote that he thinks the job will eventually help his academic work.

“I believe this is a unique opportunity to better understand how international law works in practice and that this period of government service will inform and invigorate my scholarship when I return to academe,” Burke-White wrote. “Likewise, I find this to be an exceptional time to serve the country while we respond to unprecedented global policy challenges.”

According to law professor Kermit-Roosevelt, Burke-White’s appointment reflects well upon the law school.

“It’s a mark of distinction for the law school that our faculty are recognized as having such valuable expertise,” Roosevelt wrote.

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