Five days into his new job, Rajiv Shah found himself in the White House Situation Room, seated four chairs from President Barack Obama and overseeing the US government’s response to the earthquake that has devastated Haiti.
As Obama’s designated “unified disaster coordinator,” the 36-year-old doctor has been working to deploy relief workers, brief Cabinet secretaries and serve as a spokesman for the administration’s rescue and recovery efforts — all while on little sleep and lots of Diet Coke.
Shah, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, has wowed the White House and State Department, with top officials in both places praising his steady leadership and command of the evolving operations in Port-au-Prince.
“Dr. Shah has been excellent,” said Denis McDonough, National Security Council chief of staff, who has worked closely with Shah since Tuesday when the earthquake struck. “Focused. Calm. Facts-based.”
Shah joined the administration last year as the undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics, but he soon was recruited by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to head USAID. The Senate confirmed his appointment December 24 and he was sworn in one week ago.
Shah has collaborated with former president Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation on international aid efforts over the past decade, and Clinton said Shah is up to the task of leading the recovery in Haiti.
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