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Virginia Evelyn Palmer[1] (born 1963) is an American diplomat and current United States Ambassador to Malawi. She was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate, beginning the assignment in January 2015.

Virginia Palmer
Virginia Palmer.jpg
United States Ambassador to Malawi
Assumed office
February 27, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded byJeanine Jackson
Succeeded byRobert K. Scott
Personal details
Born1963 (age 55–56)
Alma materGeorgetown University
University of Virginia


Early life and educationEdit

Palmer is the daughter of Becky and Richard Palmer, who was a professor of drama at Washington University in St. Louis. She grew up in University City, Missouri, and graduated from University City High School (Missouri). She attended Georgetown University and earned a B.S. in Foreign Service in 1983. She then earned an M.A. at the University of Virginia in 1986.[2]


In 1986, following completion of her graduate studies, Palmer joined the Foreign Service. Her early assignments included serving as Consular Officer at U.S. Consulate Calgary, Canada and as Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China. International assignments also include ones in Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Kenya and Vietnam.[1] She was Director of the East Asia Bureau's Office of Economic Policy from 2004 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008 she served in the Department of State as the Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

When she was nominated by President Barack Obama to be U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, she was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, a position she held since 2011.[3] In that role, Palmer welcomed Obama as he visited three nations in Africa, and explained to local media, "This visit highlights the potential of Africa and our President to interact and highlight the role of the 600 American companies that are already operating in South Africa and are creating jobs in South Africa."[4]

Delays in the Senate kept her nomination, as well as those of many other ambassador nominees, from being approved. The American Foreign Service Association expressed concern that delays in Senate proceedings were putting the U.S. at risk due to the absence of ambassadors in countries engaged in "the war on Ebola", the killer virus which dominated the U.S.-Africa summit in 2014. [5]

After assuming her role as Malawi ambassador, Palmer became vocal in defense of civil rights for gays.[6]


In addition to English, Palmer speaks Chinese and French. Palmer is married to Ismail Asmal, who is also a Foreign Service Officer. They have two daughters.


  1. ^ a b Palmer, Virginia E. - Republic of Malawi - August 2014 U.S. Department of State, August 2014
  2. ^ U.S. Ambassador to Malawi: Who Is Virginia Palmer? AllGov, October 18, 2014
  3. ^ Virginia E. Palmer U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi U.S. Embassy at Malawi, accessed May 7, 2016
  4. ^ Obama visit to strengthen ties: Palmer South African BC, June 25, 2013
  5. ^ On eve of Obama summit, 20% of U.S. Embassies in Africa lack ambassador the Washington Examiner, August 1, 2014
  6. ^ é U.S. Envoy urges Malawi to drop charges for gay couple Nyasa Times, December 15, 2015
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Jeanine Jackson
United States Ambassador to Malawi