WASHINGTON — The Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) is proud to announce that Emily Mendrala, a former foreign policy advisor in President Obama’s National Security Council, has been selected to succeed Sarah Stephens as the organization’s Executive Director. She began on May 1, 2017.
Ms. Stephens, who founded CDA in 2006 and has served as Executive Director from the beginning, will be running a new Cuba-focused entity, “The Atlantic Fellows Platform for Innovation and Narrative,” that she co-created with The Atlantic Philanthropies. The announcement was made by Bea Edwards, President of CDA’s board of directors.
“At this critical moment for U.S.-Cuba relations,” Ms. Edwards said, “our ability to bring Emily Mendrala on-board – a Cuba policy expert with high-level White House, State Department, and congressional experience – ensures that CDA will remain at the center of the debate over the future of engagement with the people and government of Cuba.
“After starting this organization from scratch in 2006, Sarah Stephens spent a decade building CDA’s leadership role in Cuba policy, in bringing bipartisan congressional delegations to the island, and creating the mutual respectful relationships with Cubans inside and outside government that are at the heart of our expertise and authority,” Ms. Edwards said. “Emily starts as Executive Director with a healthy, highly respected organization and a vibrant staff thanks to Sarah’s hard work.”
Ms. Mendrala, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, served as a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she advised then-Chairman John Kerry on Latin America and the Caribbean. At the U.S. State Department, she advised the Coordinator for Cuban Affairs on U.S.-Cuba bilateral engagement and congressional affairs, and joined President Obama’s March 2016 trip to Havana to provide policy support. She concluded her tenure with the administration as Director for Legislative Affairs in the National Security Council.
“CDA is at the forefront of efforts to advance normalization between the U.S. and Cuba, and its work has contributed to important gains in recent years,” said Ms. Mendrala. “I am honored to join the team and eager to get to work furthering the mission.”
“Sarah Stephens is a highly principled leader in international affairs, with an uncanny ability to bring people with disparate viewpoints together in a way that results in mutual respect and real progress,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14). “She built CDA to be the unsurpassed leader in using bipartisan delegations and dialogue to educate Members of Congress and others about the true impact of U.S. policy. Sarah and CDA’s work laid the groundwork for the recent diplomatic opening with Cuba.”
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The Center for Democracy in the Americas, founded in 2006, has led more than 60 trips to Cuba for bipartisan delegations of Members of the U.S. Congress, trade missions for the governors of New York and Virginia, CEOs and trade associations, and leaders in philanthropy, women’s issues, and the arts, including the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. More information about CDA is available on our website.
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