Krishanti O'Mara Vignarajah
|Krishanti O'Mara Vignarajah|
September 16, 1979
Colombo, Sri Lanka
|🏫 Education||Woodlawn High School|
Yale University (BA, MA)
University of Oxford (MPhil)
Yale Law School (JD)
|🏛️ Political party||Democratic|
Collin O’Mara (m. 2016)
|👴 👵 Parent(s)||Ely Vignarajah (father)|
Sothy Vignarajah (mother)
|👪 Relatives||Thiru Vignarajah (brother)|
|🏅 Awards||Marshall Scholarship (2001)|
Potter Stewart Prize (2007)
Thurman Arnold Prize (2007)
Joseph Parker Prize (2008)
Benjamin Scharps Prize (2008)
William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize (2011)
Krishanti O'Mara Vignarajah was the former Policy Director to First Lady Michelle Obama and led the presidential initiative Let Girls Learn. Before working in the White House, Vignarajah served as a senior advisor at the State Department under Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry. In February 2017, she founded Generation Impact, a firm that helps nonprofits and advocacy organizations achieve sustainable impact.
Vignarajah was 9 months old when her family escaped growing violence in Sri Lanka to come to America. The daughter of Baltimore City public school teachers, her mother started teaching at Poly High School and finished her career teaching at Morgan State University, one of Maryland's distinguished HBCUs. Her father recently retired from Western High School in Baltimore City, the oldest all-girls public school in the country, at the age of 80 after teaching for 53 years. Vignarajah attended Baltimore Public Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, graduating from Woodlawn High School in Baltimore (Woodlawn was the school featured in the Serial podcast).
Vignarajah graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale College with a master's degree in Political Science and a B.S. in Molecular Biology – all in 4 years. She subsequently obtained an M.Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University (Magdalen College) as a Marshall Scholar. She then went Yale Law School, where she served as Features and Reviews Editor on the Yale Law Journal. During her academic career, Vignarajah received the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize, the Benjamin Scharps Prize, the Joseph Parker Prize, the Potter Stewart Prize, and the Thurman Arnold Prize.
After law school, she practiced law at Jenner & Block in Washington, DC, clerked for Chief Judge Michael Boudin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and taught U.S. foreign policy and international law at Georgetown University as an adjunct. She has published articles in the Chicago Law Review, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Journal of World Trade. She regularly appears on MSNBC, The Hill, CNN and CBS.
In October 2011, Vignarajah was named as Senior Advisor at the State Department under Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry. In that role, Vignarajah helped manage State Department initiatives and programs related to private sector investment and public-private partnerships, agency and bureau budgeting, development strategies around health, food security and climate change, youth and religious engagement, global women's issues, and regional issues relating to Africa and the Middle East. Vignarajah also served as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University, teaching international law and U.S. foreign policy.
In early 2015, Vignarajah was named Michelle Obama's new Policy Director. At the White House, Vignarajah led the Let Girls Learn initiative, which brought together a number of government agencies, private sector partners and countries to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attaining a quality education. Vignarajah oversaw the creation of an international coalition of governments that included Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, and the UK, plus over 100 private sector companies and organizations including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Girl Scouts, and Lands’ End.
Vignarajah left the White House at the end of the Obama Administration and began her own firm, Generation Impact, which partnered with nonprofits and social enterprises to create strategic partnerships and execute innovative strategies to positively impact the world. She worked to advance issues like education, entrepreneurship and women and girls empowerment.
In May 2017, she gave the commencement address at Hood College, which was named one of the 9 most inspiring commencement speeches of 2017 by Buzzfeed.
In September 2017, Vignarajah formally announced her run for Governor of Maryland at her childhood home in Edmonson Heights. She kicked off her gubernatorial campaign with a three-day statewide tour, beginning in Garrett County and ending in Ocean City. On the campaign trail, she was endorsed by actress Ashley Judd for her strong proposals to end sexual harassment, created a viral "Mean Tweets" video with more than 1.7 million views in response to sexist and racist comments she received, and was an outspoken critic of Trump's border policy of family separation at numerous immigration rallies. Her ground-breaking campaign received national attention and she essentially tied for third place with 8.5 percent of the vote in a field of 9 candidates. Her gubernatorial ticket was the first in the nation to include two women of color.
In December 2015, Vignarajah got engaged to Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, America's largest wildlife conservation organization. The couple married in May 2016, with the ceremony officiated by Senator Chris Coons. The couple welcomed a daughter, Alana Vignarajah O’Mara, in June 2017.
- Generation Impact, About the Founder, Retrieved 5-30-2017.
- Bartick, Kate, Birchbox, A Woman in the White House: Krishanti Vignarajah, Retrieved 5-30-2017.
- Philanthropreneurship, Krishanti Vignarajah, Biography, Retrieved 5-30-2017.
- MSNBC Interview
- Interview with CNN
- Unofficial Guide to SXSW 2015, Speaker: Krishanti Vignarajah, Retrieved 6-15-2017.
- The Verge, @Michelle Obama
- Commencement, Ungraduate Speaker, Hood College, Retrieved 5-30-2017.
- Mulvihill, Amy, Q&A with Krishanti Vignarajah, Retrieved 6-15-2017.
- El Higgins, Buzzfeed, The 9 Most Inspiring Commencement Speeches of 2017, 8 by Women, 1 by Pharrell
- Baltimore Sun
- Washington Post
- Indie Wire, Ashley Judd Helped Draft Government Proposal to Put an End to Sexual Harassment
- Baltimore Sun, Krish Vignarajah Mean Tweets
- CBS Baltimore, Krish Vignarajah
- Marie Claire, Krishanti Vignarajah
- Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, and Daniel Lippman, Politico Playbook Archive
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