A Kerala priest who rises through the ranks in White House by sheer hard work

Alexander J. Kurien.
Presently the Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of US Government Wide Policy, the 56-year-old Alexander Kurien has time and again been in news. Image source: IANS

Thiruvananthapuram: For Alexander Kurien, who wears two hats - one acquired on becoming a priest in the Kottayam headquartered Syrian Orthodox Church and the other by din of his hard work - Senior Executive (highest rank of the Civil Service) of the US administration.

Kurien has served successive Presidents in the US and is now under Donald J. Trump.

Presently the Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of US Government Wide Policy, the 56-year-old has time and again been in news.

On August 23, he was again in the limelight after Trump appointed Kurien (Alexander Kurien Achen) to expeditiously write policies and implement the two newly signed Executive Orders by the president which includes : Targeting Opportunity Zones and Other Distressed Communities for Federal Site Locations to promote economy and efficiency in the planning, acquisition, utilization, and management of Federal space facilities; besides Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence.

Both these have to be implemented before the US presidential elections to be held on November 3.

In a chat with IANS over telephone from Washington, the low profile Christian cleric said he has been handed over two impossible tasks, but in the same breath added that his Almighty God will give him the strength to see these orders become a reality.

"My mantra all along has been anything is possible in life, if one works hard," said Kurien. "God Almighty has been my guiding force all through and am certain like in the past, this time too, I will be able to achieve what I have been entrusted upon," said the priest.

Hailing from Haripad in Alapuzha district of Kerala, Kurien reached the US after completing his pre-degree at the age of 16, to join his sister who was already working there.

Ever since every small step that he took was a mighty leap for him. After 1999 he has been slowly climbing the ladder in the US State Department.

When the Obama administration took over, he became the first person of Indian origin to sit in the chair of Director Strategic planning, US State Department and since then he has had no reason to look back.

Under Trump, in 2018 Kurien took over as the Executive Director of the US Federal Real Property Council managing all federal real estate worth over $2 trillion.

The following year, he became a member on the Senior Policy Operating Group of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (the SPOG) and was identified as a human trafficking in person (TIP) expert.

In the past his main job was to set up embassies and consulates of the US across the globe. Kurien has travelled to 147 countries and have played a crucial role in either opening numerous consulates, embassies (also relocating existing ones).

A man with numerous degrees which ranges from theology, besides an MBA in finance, he completed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

"My dream of earning my doctorate is also on course, which I expect to get in 2022 and is in Public Law and Public Policy from the Boston NE University," added Kurien.

When asked about his priestly profession, Kurien said he wears the cassock on a need basis. "Following the Covid pandemic, I have got a break from my priestly duties. If not every Sunday, I wear it and conduct the Holy Mass, in churches across US, wherever I am called. It's here where I get all the strength to pursue my official work," said Kurien.

His wife is a home maker, while his two daughters have completed their studies and are working while his son is in his fourth year of college.

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