June was Immigrant Heritage Month. In the last month, we showcased some of the diversity that is reflected through our workforce.
The diverse FEMA workforce is made of people from all different backgrounds, reflecting the wide range of cultures that can be found throughout the country. Thank you for joining us this past month as they shared their stories about what coming to the United States as an immigrant means to them.
FEMA Chief of Staff to the Administrator, Michael Coen Jr., is the son of an immigrant.
Seeking opportunity and to escape poverty, Michael’s father, Michael Coen Sr., left his home in Galway, Ireland at the age of 14, he travelled around Ireland working odd jobs until making his way to London, England. During his time in London he worked as a laborer — mostly loading ships docked at the port.
After saving enough money for a plane ticket, Michael Coen Sr. immigrated to the United States in 1959, arriving in New York City.
He eventually arrived in Boston and officially completed the process to become a U.S. Citizen in 1967. While in Boston, he met his soon to be wife and welcomed the first of five children: the agency’s own Michael Coen Jr.
As the son of an immigrant, Michael Coen Jr. says he carries some responsibility to contribute to the nation as a way of giving back for the opportunity the country offered his father. He attributes his interest in the electoral process and public service to his father, whose thirst for knowledge inspired him to study U.S. history, the election process and the workings of government.
Coen recognizes that it was his father’s decision to immigrate to America that allowed him and his family to pursue their dreams.
After working on former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Michael Coen Jr. joined FEMA as special assistant to the agency’s director. The title “director” was changed to “administrator” by the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006.
FEMA’s mission of helping people before, during and after disasters aligns with Coen’s values.
“I am proud to stand with the employees of FEMA as we provide an equitable approach to serving people and especially underserved populations. What we’ve done with vaccine distribution, our equity approach has been vital to the nation’s progress as we overcome the pandemic,” said Coen.
“Immigrant Heritage Month is an opportunity to honor the people that had the courage to come to the U.S. to build a better life for themselves and future generations. We are a country of immigrants. We should appreciate our immigrants. This month is a chance to educate all about our rich history built by immigrants and respect our diversity,” he added.
This appointment is Michael’s third tour with FEMA. We thank him for his commitment and continued service to FEMA and the people we serve.