Why did he choose McDermott? "I really wanted an environment where I could learn more things, and this firm just gets into so many things that are of interest to me," he says. There is something else he admits he misses about Congress, though: his friends. Up on the Hill, he says, "There were so many people I was fond of." Fortunately, his new office is across the street from the Capitol.
— Laura Ryan
Nancy Lindborg is the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace. (Chet Susslin)Seeking more peaceful ways to manage conflict.
When school groups come to Washington, says Nancy Lindborg, "they see all these memorials to various wars on the Mall. And then," she adds, "they come here." Lindborg is the new president of the United States Institute of Peace — which describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by Congress to increase the nation's capacity to manage international conflict without violence," and which has its headquarters directly across from the National Mall. When I interview her in her corner office, which overlooks the Lincoln Memorial and sits kitty-corner to the memorial to the Vietnam War, Lindborg has been on the job only one week, and the task before her is undoubtedly monumental.
Established under Ronald Reagan by an act of Congress in 1984, the institute comprises the main office in Washington plus a handful of permanent field offices in countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. In addition, staffers travel on field missions to nations across the globe, from Colombia to South Sudan. The institute's projects range from a recent targeted effort to promote peaceful elections through support of community radio and street art in Afghanistan, to a global push to train military and civil leaders to be better mediators and negotiators. Lindborg, 57, will lead a staff of nearly 350 and will work closely with the bipartisan board of directors to determine the broader direction of the institute.
Lindborg came to USIP from the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, where she led crisis-prevention efforts in response to situations as disparate as unrest in Syria and the outbreak of Ebola in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Before that, she spent 14 years at global-aid agency Mercy Corps, including six as its president. It was at Mercy Corps, she says, that she learned how long it can take for a region to get out of conflict — and how complex an equation it can be for peace to really take hold. "In both Mercy Corps and at DCHA, I spent a lot of time on response to violent conflict," she says. Now at USIP, she hopes she'll be able to help populations get out ahead of their problems, an approach she calls "focusing on the upstream."
While the challenges are daunting, the hope of helping to resolve those conflicts — or better yet, get ahead of them — is enough to keep Lindborg going. And it's why she has stayed in Washington. The Minnesota native tells me that when first moved to D.C. for a job in politics several decades ago, she thought she'd be gone within the year. Instead, she found herself hooked: Here was a city "filled with people who care deeply about making good things happen in the world. And what's more wonderful than that?"