Jay K. FootlikFiras MaksadTara SonenshineEdward ‘Skip’ Gnehm, Jr.Hisham Melhem

Jay K. Footlik

Managing Director

Jay K. Footlik is the founding president and CEO of Global Policy Initiatives (GPI), an international business, political and policy development consultancy. He also serves as Senior Advisor to GPA.

Over the past decade, his clients have included Fortune 500 companies, countries and various foreign ministries, NGO’s and others. He has also represented high net worth individuals in both their personal and corporate capacities, providing advice and counsel including crafting crisis communication and public relations.

Footlik served as Special Assistant to President Clinton in the White House, helping build support for a range of domestic and foreign policy issues, including extensive work involving the Middle East. He also served as the President’s Liaison to the American Jewish Community and traveled with President Clinton on three continents to assist the president on official visits to Poland, Norway, Israel, Gaza, Jordan and various locations within the United States.

A former US Congressional Candidate, Footlik has held various senior positions on numerous political campaigns over the past 25 years, including Bill Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992 and John Kerry’s Presidential campaign in 2004, where he served as Kerry’s senior Middle East advisor.

Footlik is a frequent speaker on topics ranging from US politics and presidential elections to foreign policy and the Middle East.  In the lead up to the 2012 US presidential elections, the US State Department’s Speaker and Specialist Program sent him to Kuwait and Morocco to speak to a variety of audiences regarding the American elections.  He has appeared on television and radio, including Al Jazeera English, Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS and others.

Footlik earned a B.A. in political science from UCLA, specializing in American Foreign Policy and the Middle East. He has a law degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles and is a member of the Maryland State Bar.

Firas Maksad

Senior Advisor

Firas Maksad is founder and managing director of GPA, a Washington DC political consultancy. He is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University and the University of Maryland. As a respected voice on US foreign policy and the Middle East, Firas has cultivated ties to senior policymakers and opinion leaders.

Previously, Firas served as an associate to Ambassador Dennis Ross, the former US Middle East presidential envoy. He also worked on Capitol Hill for the House International Relations Committee. He has been a political consultant to DLA Piper, a leading global law firm chaired by former US Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. He oversaw research on the Levant for Eurasia Group, a prominent political risk advisory.

Firas’ writings have appeared in numerous prestigious publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy Magazine, Foreign Affairs, Los Angles Times and several others. He is a regular commentator on US politics and the Middle East for global news networks including BBC, CNBC, Sky News, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera.

Firas holds a Masters of Science in Foreign Service degree, and an honors certificate in International Business from Georgetown University. He completed his undergraduate degree in Political Studies with distinction at the American University of Beirut. He is fluent in English and Arabic, and competent in French.

Tara Sonenshine

Advisory Board Member

Tara Sonenshine has a distinguished career in government, non-profits and the media.

She served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs under both Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry. She is currently Distinguished Fellow, School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

Her high-level experience in the media includes producing news programs for network television and authoring articles for national print and online media. Sonenshine is the winner of 10 News Emmy Awards and other awards in journalism for programs on domestic and international issues.

Edward ‘Skip’ Gnehm, Jr.

Advisory Board Member

Ambassador Gnehm is currently Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. He is a member of the Middle East faculty and Director of the Middle East Policy Forum.

Ambassador Gnehm served in the United States Foreign Service for 36 years prior to his retirement in 2004. He most recently served as U.S. Ambassador in Jordan (2001-2004). Previously he was Ambassador to Kuwait (1991-1994), Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. (1994-1997), and Ambassador to Australia (2000-2001). He also served as the Director-General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel of the Department of State (1997-2000). As Deputy Secretary of Defense (1987-1989) Gnehm was responsible for all US military programs from Morocco to Bangladesh.  He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Gnehm has also had assignments in Vietnam, Nepal, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Ambassador Gnehm is a recipient of numerous awards among them two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards and the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award.  He is also the recipient of two Secretary of Defense Medals for Meritorious Civilian Service.

In addition to his teaching, Ambassador Gnehm is a member of the Advisory Board of ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), a member of the Executive Committee of the American-Kuwaiti Alliance, the Senior Living Foundation and a Governor/Trustee of DACOR (Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired).  He is a member of The American Academy of Diplomacy, the Middle East Institute, the American Foreign Service Association, the American Philatelic Society and Fourth Presbyterian Church where he serves as an elder.

Hisham Melhem

Advisory Board Member

Hisham Melhem is the Washington bureau chief of AI-Arabiya, the Dubai based satellite channel, where he authors a weekly opinion column for its English­ language website. He is also the correspondent for leading Lebanese daily Annahar. He hosted Across the Ocean, a weekly current affairs program on US-Arab relations, on AI-Arabiya for four years.

Melhem’s writings appeared in publications ranging from the literary journal AI-Mawaqef to the Los Angeles Times, and in magazines such as Foreign Policy, Middle East Report, Middle East Insight, and Middle East Policy. He is the author of Dual Containment: The Demise of A Fallacy, published by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. In addition, he appears regularly on the News Hour, Nightline, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, The Charlie Rose Show, and National Public Radio.

Melhem has interviewed many US and international public figures, including President George W. Bush,Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others. Furthermore, Melhem had the first formal one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama on January 26, 2009, a week following the Inauguration.