By TIM RYAN
(CN) – President-elect Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he’s chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, to be his ambassador to the United Nations.
Haley is both the first person from outside Trump’s inner circle to get an appointment in his administration and the first woman he’s named to a Cabinet-level position.
Her nomination turned out to be just the start of a flurry of activity for the president-elect, who flew to Palm Beach, Florida last night for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Trump also nominated prominent charter school advocate Betsy DeVos as his secretary of education on Wednesday, and offered retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson the position of secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Haley and DeVos have already accepted Trump’s offer of positions in his administration.
A spokesmen for Carson said he will consider his offer from Trump over the holiday weekend.
But it was the nomination of the South Carolina governor that created the biggest splash on Wednesday.
Haley, 44, was a Tea Party favorite after she became the United State’s youngest governor in 2010, and she rose to national prominence as a frequent critic of President Barack Obama.
She drew praise last year for her response to a mass shooting at an historic black church in downtown Charleston which included her calling for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol.
But because she was an outspoken critic of Trump during the primaries, some had believed her star had diminished with his election.
Haley endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ahead of the South Carolina primary in February and rebuked Trump for several of his policy positions, especially his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.
During that same period, Haley delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address and raised the hackles of Trump supporters when she urged the GOP faithful to reject the “angriest voices” — something they saw as a jibe at their candidate.
Trump returned fire, saying in a March tweet “the people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley.”
After Rubio dropped out of the race, Haley switched her allegiance to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
But after Haley met with Trump last week, she called him “a friend and supporter” of hers before he ran for president and said their session was a meeting of “friends who had known each other before.”
Later, Haley said that she speaks her mind when she sees something she disagrees with and that she wouldn’t pretend she and Trump had seen eye-to-eye during the campaign.
“But I did vote for him and was very happy he won,” she said.
Haley’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston reported Haley has taken at least eight trips abroad since taking office in 2011.
Haley made headlines after one of those trips, a 2011 trade mission, when the Charleston newspaper reported the trip cost state taxpayers $127,000.
Haley responded by calling the reporter who wrote the story a “little girl,” but later apologized.
Though Haley lacks some traditional foreign policy chops, Stewart Patrick, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, praised the decision for bringing a softer voice to a Trump administration that has largely backed up its leader’s bombast.
“Nikki is the daughter of immigrants and she came out against the notion of cutting off Muslims to the U.S.,” Patrick said. “She’s an excellent person to put in the UN because it projects an image of a welcoming to the U.S. In that respect, she’s a positive choice, particularly to those of us who have been more than skeptical and concerned by statements made by President-elect Trump.”
Patrick also said Haley seems “collaborative,” an encouraging sign for a job that requires synergy with the secretary of state.
Swanee Hunt, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard University Kennedy School of government, said, “Nikki Haley, for all her unique qualifications, will be filling a role seen as outside the purview of white men. She’ll be joining eight of the last 15 US ambassadors to the UN who are women, or men of color.”
“What could be more fitting? To say the obvious, growing up Indian or Afghan in the United States is worth at least an advanced degree in political science,” Hunt continued. “But there’s another sense in which having a woman is an inspired choice. Meta-analysis of social science research shows that women as a group are more collaborative than men as a group. In short, that gender stereotype turns out to be true when not applied to one particular woman or one particular man.”
“Whether or not that’s at the top of mind of Trump or his transition advisors, the generally accepted idea of women being particularly good at listening and empathizing likely plays a part in the choice of a woman to a position in which, on an hour-by-hour basis, collaborating across nationalities, cultures, languages, countries enormous and tiny, rich and poor is the key to success in moving forward the US agenda,” Hunt said.
Courthouse News reporter Brandi Buchman contributed to this report.