Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis
Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a longtime member of Leadership 100, has published a memoir, Madame Ambassador: Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties, and Democracy in Budapest. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from January 7, 2010 to July 20, 2013.
The memoir, released on May 5, 2015, recounts her experiences being vetted for the position with no background in diplomacy, attending an ambassador “charm school” and an intensive training session. However, in taking up her assignment in the former Soviet satellite, she feels that nothing could have prepared her for the realities of life in Hungary.
A property developer, Kounalakis is faced with organizing dinners and diplomatic meetings while her husband, Markos, a journalist, is discouraged from attending diplomats’ spouses’ gatherings. Her children, meanwhile, are faced with unexpected challenges at a new school.
Politically active, Kounalakis served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention four times. She and her husband founded two university chairs in Hellenic Studies, at Georgetown and Stanford Universities, and a lecture series at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has been awarded the Medal of St. Paul by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.