HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Suzanne Nossel

CEO of PEN America and Leading Expert on Free Speech and Human Rights


  • Free Speech
  • Human Rights
  • The UN and Global Governance
  • Free Speech and Disinformation Online
  • Campus Free Speech


New York

Suzanne Nossel currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization. Since joining in 2013, she has doubled the organization’s staff, budget, and membership, spearheaded the unification with PEN Center USA in Los Angeles and the establishment of a Washington, D.C. office, and overseen groundbreaking work on free expression in Hong Kong and China, Myanmar, Eurasia, and the United States. She is a leading voice on free expression issues in the United States and globally, writing and being interviewed frequently for national and international media outlets. Nossel’s book Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All (Dey Street Books) provides a pathway for promoting free expression while also cultivating a more inclusive public culture.

In Dare to Speak, Nossel delivers a vital, necessary guide to maintaining democratic debate that is open, free-wheeling but at the same time respectful of the rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions in a changing country. Replete with insightful arguments, colorful examples, and salient advice, Dare To Speak brings much-needed clarity and guidance to this pressing—and often misunderstood—debate.

Through keynotes and panels that offer the audience guidance on how to create an open market of ideas, Nossel is the perfect speaker for colleges and universities, legal groups, technology firms, and journalism outlets domestically and internationally.

Nossel is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published op-eds in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and dozens of other outlets, as well as scholarly articles in Foreign Affairs, Dissent, Democracy, and other journals. Her prior career spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch and as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. During the first term of the Obama Administration, Nossel served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, where she led U.S. engagement in the United Nations and multilateral institutions, on human rights and humanitarian issues. During the Clinton Administration, Nossel was Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she was the lead negotiator in settling U.S. arrears to the world body. During her corporate career, Nossel served as Vice President of U.S. Business Development for Bertelsmann and as Vice President for Strategy and Operations for the Wall Street Journal. Nossel coined the term “Smart Power,” which was the title of a 2004 article she published in Foreign Affairs Magazine and later became the theme of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure in office.

Nossel serves on the Board of Directors of the Tides Foundation. She is a former senior fellow at the Century Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Nossel is a magna cum laude graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.


Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

Praise for Suzanne Nossel:

“Thank you for speaking at the Mark Palmer Forum last week and sharing your view on democracy and US foreign policy. It was a wonderfully substantive and engaging discussion, with a rare combination of different perspectives and constructive, forward-looking contributions. I heard great feedback from members of the audience.”
“As always, your eloquent talk was equally as stimulating, provocative and passionate.”

“Both you and Secretary Clinton beautifully captured the essence of PEN America through your speeches, which were deeply powerful and insightful.”

“I was very moved by your speech on Tuesday. The dinner was a truly memorable event for all the right reasons. Thank you for what you have done for all writers, and for PEN. The organization is very fortunate to have you at the helm.”

“Dear Suzanne - You were terrific last night and for the first time ever PEN's Exec. Director got everyone to listen. You commanded the room. Brava”

Praise for Dare to Speak:

“Should all speech be free? If not, who controls it? This brave, wise, succinct book is a must-read for writers, speakers, teachers, journalists, and, well, anyone who talks.”
-- Margaret Atwood, bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale

“In our censorious age of easy outrage, when it’s harder than ever to defend our right to express contentious ideas, Suzanne Nossel remains convinced that bigotry and intolerance can be fought without giving way on the principle of free speech, and makes her case eloquently, and—even better—usefully. An authoritative, essential book.”
-- Salman Rushdie, bestselling author of The Golden House and The Satanic Verses

“To move forward as a country demands that we focus on how to talk and listen across vast differences of opinion, without shutting down others’ speech or closing our ears.  Suzanne Nossel offers a much needed, cogent and compelling blueprint for reviving our stalled national conversation by helping all of us to speak, listen, and be heard.”
-- Hillary Rodham Clinton

“As a prominent defender of outspoken wordsmiths, Suzanne Nossel knows a thing or two about free speech, and she makes a powerful case that freedom of expression is not just compatible but necessary for the advancement of equality and human rights.”
-- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of Enlightenment Now

“In this courageous, inspiring, and pellucid book, Suzanne Nossel unpacks the complicated ambiguities that have accrued around free speech in America. Without ever being reductive, Nossel makes the arguments not only comprehensible, but also thrillingly urgent. Her call to defend our most basic liberty could not come at a more important time; it is a moral outcry against a pernicious injustice that grows ever more prevalent at home and abroad. It is written with wit, but is at its heart an earnest and optimistic call to action.”
-- Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree

"In this essential volume, Suzanne Nossel passionately and convincingly argues for free speech, a liberty that is increasingly under attack throughout the world. Drawing on her experiences at the State Department and at PEN America, the author provides a critically important primer for those who seek to secure freedom of expression in our 'diverse, digitalized, and divided culture.'"
-- Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University

“With a clarity of conviction sharpened by years at the State Department and as the head of the leading literary organization on open speech, Suzanne Nossel offers us way to support free speech and also battle bigotry. Given the world's roiling cauldron of modern-day disinformation and old-fashioned xenophobia, Nossel's Dare to Speak provides a new path that is not both-sides-ism but intellectually and emotionally up to the challenges of our times.”
-- Farai Chideya, journalist, broadcaster and author of The Color of Our Future

“With progressives decrying “microaggressions” and conservative denouncing “cancel culture,” the battle over free speech rages across modern America. Suzanne Nossel offers eminently sensible suggestions for deescalating tensions so that people of all viewpoints can speak their minds in a civil fashion. This is the rule book America needs to preserve a vibrant democracy in the 21st century.”
-- Max Boot, Washington Post columnist, CNN analyst, and author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right

“An essential citizen guide to free speech. Nossel manages to not only illuminate with great insight the complex issues and moral stakes; she also provides a clear path forward.”
-- David Grann, bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

“At a moment when Americans seem so unalterably divided and so filled with fury about each other that it seems difficult even to imagine public issues and candidates for office being discussed in a manner that both civil and serious, Dare to Speak offers constructive and potentially achievable ways of thinking about the problem and dealing with it.  That’s a rare combination of virtues.”
-- Floyd Abrams, author of The Soul of the First Amendment

“This timely book not only provides a compelling analysis of free speech’s essential role in promoting democracy and human rights; it also serves as a practical “how-to” manual for every member of our society, explaining how each of us can secure and advance robust free speech rights for all people and all ideas, including the most marginalized. It is an important guidebook for revitalizing liberty, equality, and democracy.”
-- Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at the New York Law School, and former president of the ACLU

"Suzanne Nossel has been among our most principled and eloquent front-line defenders of free expression. In her new book, she explores not just the practicalities of speaking freely and effectively in an increasingly illiberal environment, but of listening fairly. It's possible to be angry, offended, and passionate while respecting the expressive rights of others. In Dare to Speak, she explains how."
-- Jacob Weisberg, CEO of Pushkin Industries and former editor of Slate

“At a time of declining respect for truth, reason, and decency, Dare to Speak offers a framework for promoting the free exchange of ideas in a way that is civil and inclusive.  This extraordinarily clever, expertly crafted book is critical reading for anyone who cares about the quality and vitality of our public discourse.”
-- Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University

“Suzanne Nossel writes from the front lines of our political and cultural debates with heart and intelligence, with passion and wisdom. Dare to Speak is a vital and urgently needed guide to the numerous threats facing our most cherished rights and a testament to the courage necessary to protecting them.”
-- Dinaw Mengestu, award-winning author of All Our Names and How To Read the Air 

"A thoughtful, perceptive, and inspiring set of insights to guide the citizens of our democracy as they struggle to understand and to respect the freedom of speech. Dare to Speak makes an essential contribution to our understanding and to our ability to live up to the highest aspirations of our democracy.”
-- Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Democracy and Equality and The Free Speech Century