Yohannes Abraham | Meet the Ethiopian American who is the head of the Biden Transition team

By Ebimo Amungo

Ethiopian-American Yohannes Abraham currently serves as the Executive Director of the Biden-Harris Transition, overseeing preparation for the implementation of Biden-Harris policy, personnel, and management priorities. He has also been announced as the Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the White House National Security Council (NSC)

Yohannes Abraham is also on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he lectures on management. During the Obama-Biden administration, Abraham served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council. He also worked as Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, where his team partnered with cities, states, and other key stakeholders to manage crises and support domestic and national security policy priorities.


Abraham has also served on the leadership team of the Vanguard Group’s global investment unit and as a Senior Advisor at the Obama Foundation. A native of Springfield, Virginia, Abraham holds a BA from Yale College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.

Yohannes Abraham is an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he previously served as a Residential Fellow at the Institute of Politics. 

Abraham was born to Ethiopian immigrant parents, graduated from the prestigious University of Yale, received a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University.


He previously worked as chief of staff for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, led by Valerie Jarrett, a close friend, and advisor of former President Obama.

Abraham also served as chief operating officer of the Obama Foundation in Chicago, known as a devoted Democratic who is loyal to Obama, and a social activist who seeks an elected position as he belongs to the progressive bloc in the Democratic Party.

He once described himself during an interview with Los Angeles Times newspaper as “We are not politicians, we are Obama’s people”, in an obvious reference to his long friendship with Obama. He later joined the faculty of Harvard Kennedy School as a professor.

A report in Egypt Today noted that The rise of Abraham in American politics reflects the capability of the Ethiopian community in the US to present political leaders due to the community’s eagerness to have their children well educated once they make it to the US, which is a highly noticed matter in different locations of the American society.

One of these role models, is the Vice President of Policy Analysis and Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the member of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Menna Demessie. Demessie is also a member of a supreme committee formed by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed from the prominent Ethiopian immigrants, the committee promotes the international Ethiopian politics.

According to the last statistics, The Ethiopian community in the capital city of Washington is estimated at 50 thousand individuals.

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Abraham first began working for then-Senator Obama during his Iowa Caucus campaign in 2007. He went on to serve as Senator Obama’s Virginia Field Director in the 2008 general election. During President Obama’s first term, Abraham served in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and as National Political Director of Organizing for America. Abraham was then one of the first staffers selected to help set up the Obama-Biden 2012 re-election campaign. 

A native of Springfield, Virginia, Abraham received his BA from Yale College. He received his MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia and sits on the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.