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Profiles: Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos

NIKKI HALEY

Haley, 44, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was a Trump critic during the White House campaign, endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ahead of South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary. After Rubio dropped out, she backed Sen. Ted Cruz.

Haley has not served in the federal government before, and her overseas work has been limited to international trade missions on behalf of her state.

If confirmed by the Senate, Haley would immediately face a host of pressing issues, including some of the most complicated and intractable global conflicts.

Esther Brimmer, a George Washington University professor and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Haley’s early appointment could give her time to hit the ground running.

“I hope the administration recognizes the complexity of the issues that come before the U.N.,” Brimmer said. “Everything on the plate is crucial and difficult. The U.S. ambassador has to work closely on those issues with its allies, as well as its adversaries.”

Haley, the second U.S. governor of Indian heritage, is the first South Carolina governor who is not a white man. She is a former state lawmaker and has been governor for six years.

Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in rural Bamberg, South Carolina. She was raised a Sikh but says she converted to Christianity before marrying her husband, Michael, in 1996.

Haley confronted religious slurs over her Sikh roots during her first campaign for governor.

BETSY DeVOS

DeVos, 58, is chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, which advocates for the expansion of charter schools and taxpayer funded voucher programs that allow public school students to attend private schools.

DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, and her husband Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway direct-sales fortune, co-founded the Windquest Group, which invests in technology and manufacturing. They have poured millions of dollars into lobbying for school voucher programs across the country.

DeVos told Philanthropy magazine in 2013 that she is working toward a scenario in which “all parents, regardless of their ZIP code, have had the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their children. “And that all students have had the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.”

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said that DeVos has “consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”

DeVo has said little about the Common Core curriculum, the math and reading guidelines adopted by most states.

But DeVos has ties to several pro-Common Core organizations, including as a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, started by former Florida governor and Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush.

The Washington Post

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