Markos Kounalakis

Markos Kounalakis (Greek: Μάρκος Κουναλάκης; born December 1, 1956) is a syndicated columnist, journalist, author, scholar and the Second Gentleman of California after his wife, Eleni Kounalakis, was elected Lieutenant Governor, taking role on January 7, 2019. [2] Kounalakis writes a syndicated weekly foreign affairs column for The Miami Herald and McClatchy-Tribune News and is a frequent foreign affairs analyst for CBS News and CNN International. His work was awarded with a 2018 National Society of Newspaper Columnists award citing "Kounalakis's world affairs columns not only offer strong prose and strong opinions, they offer an education."[3] In 2019, he won a SPJ Sunshine State Award for his foreign affairs commentary and criticism.[4]

Markos Kounalakis
Second Gentleman of California
Assumed role
January 7, 2019
Lieutenant GovernorEleni Kounalakis
Preceded byJennifer Siebel Newsom
(as Second Lady)
Personal details
Markos Kounalakis

(1956-12-01) December 1, 1956[1]
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Spouse(s)Eleni Tsakopoulos
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley (B.A.)
Columbia University (MSc)
Central European University

Kounalakis is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace.[5] and a senior fellow at the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University.

Kounalakis is president and publisher emeritus of the Washington Monthly, a magazine founded by Charles Peters in 1969. Along with Ray Suarez, he co-hosts the WorldAffairs podcast and syndicated radio program.[6] He co-anchored with Peter Laufer the nationally syndicated weekly political program, Washington Monthly on the Radio.[7]


Early life

Kounalakis was born in 1956 in San Francisco to Greek immigrants. His father, Antonios, was an underground guerrilla fighter against the Nazis on the island of Crete during World War II. He fought with Constantine Mitsotakis, who later became Prime Minister of Greece. Like his father, Kounalakis was a blue-collar construction worker who maintains his Class A heavy equipment truck drivers license[8].


Kounalakis is a political scientist specializing in international relations. His research focuses on the effects global media have on foreign policy. Using an interdisciplinary approach, Kounalakis utilizes theories on communications, neoclassical realism, soft power, and rising powers in his research. Kounalakis received a public education in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned his bachelor's degree in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley in 1978. He received his MSc in Journalism from Columbia University in 1988. Kounalakis earned a PhD in International Relations/Political Science at Central European University in 2016[9]. In 1988-1989, Kounalakis was a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Europe, attending the Bundesakademie für öffentliche Verwaltung in Bonn, Germany in 1988 and the École Nationale d'Administration in Paris, France in 1989. In 1995-1996, Kounalakis was an International Journalism Graduate Fellow at the University of Southern California and El Colegio de México in Mexico City. As an international journalism graduate fellow, he also spent time in Guatemala (1995) and Cuba (1996). In the early 1980s, he attended the International Graduate School at Stockholm University, Sweden, where he studied International Relations and became a fluent Swedish speaker.[10] Between 2003 and 2009, Kounalakis was a regular Hoover Institution Media Fellow and has been a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University since September 2013. Since 2010, he has been a senior research fellow at the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University.


Kounalakis worked as a foreign correspondent for NBC Radio and Mutual News in the USSR, based in Moscow from 1991-1992. He previously reported for Newsweek on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Albania. Newsweek also sent him to cover the early phase of the Yugoslav civil war. He went to Afghanistan and covered the "Holy War Without End" for The Los Angeles Times Magazine.

In 2002, The New York Times called him a "White Knight" for saving the venerable Washington Monthly magazine.[11] Publisher Kounalakis and editor Paul Glastris have since rejuvenated the magazine, grown its readership, and increased its impact – making it a "progressive must-read" in Washington, D.C., according to James Carville. Its expose of former education secretary William Bennett's gambling problem brought early attention to the Kounalakis/Glastris team.[12]


Kounalakis was appointed by President Barack Obama[13] to serve on the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. He has served on the Board of Visitors at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Board of Advisors at Georgetown College and the Wilson Council at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He was the Vice Chairman of the Board of Advisors at the Southeast Europe Project at WWICS; he was a trustee of the World Affairs Council of Northern California; and formerly served as Chairman of Internews Network 20022004; Vice Chairman of the California State World Trade Commission 20012003; Board of Trustees of the Western Policy Center 20012005. In June 2003, he chaired a multinational reconstruction conference in Athens, Greece where Iraq's media laws were drafted.

Kounalakis and his wife, Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, have established two chairs in politics and democracy at Georgetown University[14] and Stanford University[15]

Marriage and children

He married Eleni Tsakopoulos in Istanbul in 2000. The couple has two sons, Neo and Eon.[16] His wife served as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary until 2013 and won the 2018 election for Lieutenant Governor of California, taking office in January 2019.[17]

Published works



The War Prayer (short film, 2007)[18][19]


Honorary titles
Preceded by
Jennifer Siebel Newsom
(as Second Lady)
Second Gentleman of California
January 7, 2019 – present
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