Penn Kemble was the founding President of the Foundation for Democratic Education. He was a life-long believer in social democracy. Guided by this perspective, he was instrumental to the founding of numerous organizations — Frontlash, the Foundation for Democratic Education, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America, Civitas, and the New Economy Information Service. He also gave a lifetime of support to existing institutions — the AFL-CIO, the League for Industrial Democracy, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Freedom House and Social Democrats U.S.A. All of these entities, both new and more experienced, were committed to pursuing one or another of various causes, each overlapping with the next, all related. To Penn’s mind they were all about promoting civil rights, strengthening the American labor movement, building civil societies, advocating for civic education, maintaining a secure defense, replacing dictatorial and totalitarian regimes with democratic governance, and defending democracy-driven internationalism. Working on these was, for him, key to building “a movement.”
Positions Kemble held late in his career and closer to his death in 2005 included Co-Editor of Democracy Digest, Senior Scholar at Freedom House, and Director of the Transatlantic Democracy Network. During the Clinton Administration he served as Deputy Director and Acting Director at the United States Information Agency and was Special Representative of the Secretary of State for the Community of Democracies Initiative. He was a member of the Board of International Broadcasting, and the Boards of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He was a member of the National Committee of Social Democrats, USA. His articles appeared in New Republic, Commentary, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and a number of scholarly journals.