Atlantan Michèle Taylor has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In announcing the nomination Oct. 21, the White House said: “Michèle Taylor has served in a number of roles advocating for protection of fundamental human and political rights.”
The nomination requires confirmation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full Senate. A committee hearing has not yet been scheduled. Per protocol, Taylor declined to give an interview until the confirmation process is completed.
Taylor, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, serves on the board of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and is an alumni member of the of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council, to which she was appointed in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama. In the latter, she served on the Committee on State Sponsored Antisemitism and the Committee on Holocaust Denial and State-Sponsored Antisemitism.
In 2014, Taylor also served as a consultant to the White House on the Violence Against Women Act’s 20th anniversary.
In her political life, Taylor formerly served as vice chair of the national finance committee of the Democratic Party, as co-chair and campaign vice-chair for Michelle Nunn’s 2014 Senate campaign, and as co-chair of former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s 2013 re-election campaign.
An observant Jew, Taylor was a founding board member of Congregation Or Hadash.
Taylor also has served as a board member of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and co-chair of the programming committee. [Disclosure: The author has served in the former capacity.]
President Biden recently directed that the United States rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council, effective with its 2022 term, reversing the June 2018 withdrawal ordered by then-President Donald Trump. U.S. participation on the Council has followed political lines; active during the administration of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, but not during that of his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, a Republican.
The Council, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, was created in 2006 and is comprised of 47 U.N. member nations. In recent years, the body has been criticized as being anti-Israel.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken referenced that issue on Oct. 14 when he announced the U.S. return, saying: “The Council plays a meaningful role in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms by documenting atrocities in order to hold wrongdoers accountable. It focuses attention on emergencies and unfolding human rights crises, ensuring that those who are voiceless have a place to be heard. The Council provides a forum where we can have open discussions about ways we and our partners can improve. At the same time, it also suffers from serious flaws, including disproportionate attention on Israel and the membership of several states with egregious human rights records. Together, we must push back against attempts to subvert the ideals upon which the Human Rights Council was founded, including that each person is endowed with human rights and that states are obliged to protect those rights.”
The first U.S. representative to the former U.N. Commission on Human Rights, a precursor of today’s Human Rights Council, was Eleanor Roosevelt, who served from 1947-53. Atlanta attorney Morris Abram, who was Jewish, also served in that role, from 1965-68.
Taylor’s mother, Susi H. Nichols (née Trnka), and grandparents escaped from Vienna, Austria in 1939, emigrating to the United States. German troops invaded Austria in March 1938 and declared it a German province.
Taylor, 55, is a native of Palo Alto, Calif. She earned her B.A. from Mills College and an M.A. from Boston University.
She and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Taylor, a cardiologist, are the parents of two grown children.
An avid outdoor enthusiast — who hikes mountains, skis, runs, and bicycles — Taylor is a former board member of the North Carolina Outward Bound School, as well as a climbing instructor and course director.
In addition to Atlanta, the Taylors are part-time residents of Steamboat Springs, Colo. A friend and Colorado neighbor, Paula Salky, told the Steamboat Pilot & Today: “She was always the same person that came here and skied and helped my daughter with her math, but she also took phone calls from the president and vice president’s offices. What I love about Michèle is that she’s truly a normal person.”
“When I got a call from the State Department, it was quite an honor to tell them about Michèle and how amazing she is,” Salky told the newspaper. “It’s amazing to see the process, and how truly if you want something like this, it can happen in your life.”