Krishanti Vignarajah


Krishanti Vignarajah

Former Policy Director to First Lady Michelle Obama

Krishanti Vignarajah is a leading authority on public policy, philanthropy, and engaging millennials. The former policy director at the White House to First Lady Michelle Obama, Vignarajah provides unique insight on what it takes to drive innovation, leverage diverse talent, and lead successful teams with passion and purpose. A brilliant storyteller, her experience and expertise in purpose-driven leadership is exceptional, but it’s her inspiring passion and ability to connect with all audiences that truly distinguishes her.

Born in Sri Lanka, Vignarajah escaped humble beginnings and a civil war to immigrate to America, where she succeeded at the most elite institutions and forged a career that has spanned business, law, and government, and which has included acting as a State Department Senior Advisor under both Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry.

At the White House, in addition to serving as policy director to Michelle Obama, Vignarajah led the Let Girls Learn initiative President Obama and the First Lady launched while in office. In this capacity, Vignarajah helped shape White House and State Department initiatives related to the UN and other multilateral institutions, private sector investment, and public-private partnerships.

Prior to joining the White House, Vignarajah clerked for former Chief Judge Michael Boudin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and practiced law at Jenner & Block in Washington. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University, teaching international law and US foreign policy.

Vignarajah attended Yale College, where she earned a Master’s degree in Political Science and a BS in Molecular Biology, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She subsequently obtained an M.Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, and returned to Yale where she earned a Law degree.

At Yale, Vignarajah was awarded the Potter Stewart Prize and the Harlan Fiske Stone Prize for best brief and best oralist during its Supreme Court competition. She has also received the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize, the Benjamin Scharps Prize, and the Joseph Parker Prize.

Vignarajah has published many award-winning articles on free trade, judicial scrutiny of political questions, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS in, among others, the Journal of World Trade and the Chicago Law Review.

Bringing About Change from the East Wing: The Role of the First Lady’s Office in Presidential Administrations

First Ladies, though not publicly-elected or Senate-confirmed, have often wielded incredible political power and been intimately involved in policy and politics since the days of Abigail Adams.

This speech centers around Mrs. Obama’s transformative role as First Lady, including her national campaigns, use of pop culture, and ultimate service as a surrogate for Secretary Clinton, but contextualizes her role alongside previous First Ladies who very publicly championed sometimes controversial political positions from the East Wing, including Eleanor Roosevelt’s fight for civil and women’s rights, Mary Todd Lincoln’s support for freed African-American slaves, Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs, and Laura Bush’s advocacy on gay marriage, abortion and international human rights.

Marketing to the “Me” Generation: A Millennial’s Insight into Marketing to and Engaging Millennials

With an inter-generational perspective, Krishanti brings both her policy and branding expertise to provide insight into how social, cultural, and technological shifts require a complete retooling for how we attract and capture the attention and engage more activist, tech-savvy and ambitious millennial audiences.

This speech offers a critical road map that can be tailored to industries from financial institutions and health care companies to advocacy organizations and nonprofits to given audiences valuable and operative insight into what invites and incites.

Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Women’s Leadership in Education, Employment and the Environment

Drawing from Krishanti’s experiences working for powerful and passionate female leaders like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, this timely speech highlights the current trends, challenges, opportunities, and innovative strategies to advancing female talent and guaranteeing gender parity in critical areas like education, employment and the environment.

This inspiring keynote addresses why women have hit a glass ceiling of less than 20% leadership roles across all sectors of the economy and offers advice to women on how to get out of their own way and to both women and men on how to build coalitions based on common ground.

[Please note that this keynote can be tailored to be entirely contemporary and US-focused or global and based on Krishanti’s international travel as an American diplomat working to support the causes of other female leaders like Queen Rania, President Johnson Sirleaf and Laura Bush.]

Trump Doctrine and Your Bottom Line

The actions taken during the Trump Administration’s first 100 days will impact every company operating on the global stage.  As organizations and audiences desperately try to navigate this radically new world order, this speech provides unique insights that only a former senior Administration official serving at the White House and State Department could provide.

Analyzing President Trump’s initial executive orders, the Administration’s incoming cabinet secretaries, initial conversations with global leaders, and the President’s campaign promises, Krishanti explains the far-reaching implications on everything from business regulations, taxes, and trade, to immigration, healthcare, and climate change.

Managing Millennials in the Marketplace

Cause Marketing and Employee Engagement: Mainstreaming Charitable Giving Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility

Countering Violent Extremism in the Age of Globalization