A Conversation with California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis

By Samantha Monterroso |

The latest podcast episode of Policy Chats features a discussion with Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis. She talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about her accomplished career in public service. 

When discussing what inspired Kounalakis to enter a career in public service she said, “Honoring and respecting the fact that this beautiful country welcomed our family in and allows us to be part of our own governance was really the initial reason why I've had a lifetime of involvement.” 

Kounalakis is the first woman elected Lt. Governor of California. A native Californian, Kounalakis is California’s Representative for International Affairs and Trade, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom by executive order. From 2010 to 2013, Kounalakis served as President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. Kounalakis was the first Greek-American woman – and at age 43 one of America’s youngest – to serve as U.S. Ambassador. Her highly acclaimed memoir, “Madam Ambassador, Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties and Democracy in Budapest” chronicles the onset of Hungary’s democratic backsliding.

“As a woman and a native Californian, I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak with California’s first female Lieutenant Governor,” said Maddie Bunting, a third-year public policy major who served as co-host for the episode. “Her life story as a daughter of immigrants and career in public service at the state and international level inspires so many students, including myself.”

Launched in 2020, the UCR School of Public Policy podcast series explores current public policy issues with guests from throughout the policy world. Episodes are accessible via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Anchor. More information is also available through the UCR School of Public Policy podcast page.