“My American hero is the great polymath Benjamin Franklin, a fellow native Pennsylvanian and an inventor, philosopher, publisher, revolutionary, founding father, scientist, philanthropist, and America’s first ambassador, sent to Paris by the Continent Congress.  In my opinion, Ben had it right — do as much as possible, mix things up, and try to make a positive difference.” – David Huebner.


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Ambassador Huebner during a Pōwhiri at Parliament forecourt - Wellington, November 2010.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Ambassador Huebner during a Pōwhiri at Parliament forecourt – Wellington, November 2010.

Ambassador (ret’d) David Huebner was President Obama’s representative to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa from October 8, 2009 until January 17, 2014.

His tenure focused on “whole-of-society” outreach, using social media and other non-traditional communication platforms, and adding engagement with non-majority communities to the existing tools of diplomacy.  During his time, Ambassadorial receptions were as likely to include students, Maori elders, and Pasifika church ministers as they were diplomats, politicians, and businesspeople. 

The period also marked a significant improvement in bilateral relations.  Following the signing by senior officials of the Wellington and Washington Declarations in November 2010 and June 2012, both governmental and military bilateral ties were strengthened; the number of U.S. Cabinet-level visits increased dramatically to include then Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton (twice), Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Attorney General Eric Holder; NZ Prime Minister John Key made a highly successful trip to meet President Obama in Washington in July 2011; joint military exercises, including 2013’s capstone joint Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (PACC)/Pacific Armies Management Seminar (PAMS) held in NZ, once again became the norm and not the exception.

Awards and honors recognizing achievements under his leadership include the Public Affairs Asia Gold Standard Award for Social Media Communications in 2012; a New Zealand Royal Society Illuminated Scroll for his efforts in promoting science and technology collaboration in 2013; and being made a Fellow of the AUT University Faculty of Business and Law in recognition of his commitment to higher education and student achievement.

David Huebner at the U.S. Embassy Independence Day event, 2013.

David Huebner at the U.S. Embassy Independence Day event, 2013.

Immediately before being posted to New Zealand and Samoa, David Huebner was a partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, where he headed the law firm’s International Disputes Practice and China Practice and opened the firm’s first overseas offices.  Based in Shanghai, he specialized in international arbitration and mediation and handled a wide range of matters around corporate compliance and trade across the Pacific Rim region.  He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, member of the ICC’s Commission on Arbitration, a solicitor in England & Wales, and an attorney licensed to practice in California, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Previously, the Ambassador practiced law at Coudert Brothers LLP, where he served in several senior management positions including as chairman and CEO.  On leaving law school he began his career at the Center for Law in the Public Interest, and then joined the law firm of Irell & Manella.  Between 1999 and 2007 he taught full-semester courses in international business transactions, international arbitration, and international intellectual property as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law.  He has guest lectured on the same topics at several other schools in the United States, China, and New Zealand.  He has been an arbitrator for many years at the Willem Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot competitions in Vienna and Hong Kong.

He has long been active in civic, non-profit, and educational spheres.  While at Coudert, he founded a program to support children’s education and welfare charities through the Firm’s offices around the world.  He chaired the California Law Revision Commission (appointed by Governor Gray Davis and reappointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger), and served as president of the Los Angeles Quality & Productivity Commission. He was a founding board member and general counsel of the national Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Ambassador Huebner was the first openly LGBT ambassador nominated by President Obama, and only the third openly gay person in American history to serve as chief of a U.S. diplomatic mission.  He was the first openly gay ambassador In American history knowingly confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he introduced his spouse of 20 years, Dr. Duane E. McWaine.  The hearing was held on the couple’s 20th wedding anniversary, which he acknowledged in his remarks.

A native of Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania and long-time resident of California, Ambassador Huebner is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University.  He studied at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and was named a David Lawrence Scholar.  At Princeton he also served as president of the Quadrangle Club, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  He earned his Juris Doctor degree at the Yale Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation and was director of the Street Law Project.  While on leave of absence from Yale as a Henry Luce Scholar, he served in Tokyo as special assistant to the Hon. Kakizawa Koji, member of the lower house of Japan’s Diet.

Ambassador Huebner’s spouse of more than 20 years is Duane E. McWaine, MD, who is also a graduate of Princeton University.  Dr. McWaine’s specialty is psychiatry, and he has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical School and served as medical director of the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center while maintaining a private practice.