AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE
“The First Black Woman to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations”
At present, Susan Rice is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – she speaks for the U.S. in the world body of nations and she is at the center of a political and diplomatic storm mainly because some say she mis-stated the attack and destruction of the U.S. embassy in Benghazi on September 11. Whether or not that is so, many believe that there is something more sinister about the way she is being treated by some inside of the Congress and others on the outside.
Ambassador Rice comes with sterling credentials in her craft as a diplomat with foreign policy expertise. Before she embarked on a government career, she was a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institute from 2002 to 2009 where she focused on U.S. foreign policy, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security.
When then Senator Barack Obama was running for president the first time, Rice was his advisor on foreign policy issues. Prior to her time at Brookings, she served on the staff of the National Security Council (NSC) and as assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Clinton's second term.
So when President Obama took office, it was a natural that he included his foreign policy advisor in a position that would utilize her skills to the benefit of his administration for the country. Hence, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, where she has performed in an exemplary fashion.
Rice was appointed by President Obama, and in January 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination to be the permanent representative to the United Nations (the U.S Ambassador to the UN); she became the youngest person to be named to that post. She took a leave of absence from Brookings Institute.
Susan Elizabeth Rice was born in Washington D.C in 1964 to middle class parents who she would say told her “never to use race as an excuse or as an advantage.” She grew up literally on the edges of government (her father was the second Black governor of the Federal Reserve System). She attended a private girls’ school and excelled in basketball. Rice was always conscious of Affirmative Action in a way that it forced her to do her best so that whatever she achieved would not be attributed to preferential treatment because of her race. She always went out of her way to earn what she got, never cutting corners for instant gratification.
Rice attended Stanford University on a Truman scholarship, graduated with a B.A. in history in 1986 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She was then awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to attend New College, Oxford, where she earned a Master of Philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in 1988 and 1990 respectively. Her dissertation for the latter was entitled, “Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping.” Ambassador Rice is also Dr. Rice.
Her first taste of politics came during the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis. A colleague encouraged Rice to take a close look at the NSC and her dissertation experience at Oxford came in handy when, after a stint at the NSC, she was promoted to senior director for African affairs. It fitted in nicely with her academic background. She was in …in the government employ.
Next, she moved up and into the Clinton administration. At 32, Rice was named assistant Secretary of State for Africa by the President, becoming the youngest person to hold that title. She was overseeing over 40 African nations for the State Department with thousands of foreign service officials. Of course, her youth – and some say inexperience – did not interfere with her working ability. As she gained more experience, Rice became a skilled and firm negotiator, and that silenced her critics.
Throughout Rice’s professional career, her workplace position has always been complimented by her previous academic work and/or experience. For example, her studies at Oxford dovetailed smoothly into the NSC into the State Department. Her foreign policy experience dovetailed smoothly into the Brookings Institute, into the foreign policy advisor position for the first Obama campaign, and finally into the UN as the U.S. permanent representative.
FAST FORWARD TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS TO TODAY.
As a U.S. ambassador, Dr. Rice is a member of an elite group of men and women, high-ranking accredited diplomats who serve as the official representative of the U.S. to foreign countries, international organizations and sometimes as worldwide troubleshooters with responsibilities for a specific issue, such as war crimes, trade, terrorism, etc. They operate under the direction of the Secretary of State who is the “chief” ambassador/the top diplomat for the U.S. and heads the Department of State. The Secretary also represents the U.S. worldwide in foreign affairs.
Now on the threshold of becoming the new Secretary of State, the Benghazi affair appears to be threatening Rice’s prospects. As the President has stated to her detractors, “Don’t go after Ambassador Rice, come after me.” In foreign affairs much of the decisions are based on intelligence-gathering. Ambassador Rice is being lambasted, her critics say, for mis-reading the Benghazi disaster after it occurred – which if she did, it was from ‘faulty’ intelligence – but she did not. And in any event, her actions after the fact did not exacerbate the situation.
Hence, the President is defending her and so are those in Congress who can readily see that the detractors are using her and the Benghazi incident for political purposes.
Recently in Washington, a group of House Democratic women members, led by Reps. Gwen Moore (WI-4), Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Karen Bass (CA-37), Eleanor Holmes Norton (Del-District of Columbia) and Terri Sewell (AL-7), released a statement of support of U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice following what they deemed unfair attacks from various Senate and House Republicans.
In addition, the members held a press conference to buttress their statement in defense and support of Ambassador Susan E. Rice. The statement read:
Acknowledging the extraordinary contributions of an exemplary American diplomat and servant
In January 2009, when President Obama nominated Susan Rice to the post of U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of his cabinet, he did so knowing very well there were few with more skill, depth of experience and long-standing commitment to service. President Obama nominated a Rhodes Scholar, Stanford University graduate and former U.S. assistant Secretary of State.
Over the last several days, Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte have gone to extraordinary lengths to level unfair attacks against a stalwart American whose public service spans two administrations. In particular, Mr. McCain’s assertion that Ambassador Rice is “unqualified” is unsettling. It is disappointing that someone who has served his nation with distinction – both in the Navy and the U.S. Senate – would stoop to petty politics rather than direct precious time and energy to discussions around the safety and security of our foreign service and civil servants.
We call on Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte to immediately retract their troubling remarks and shift focus to the important and critical security concerns of our diplomats abroad.
In nominating Ambassador Rice, the President recognized the extraordinary contributions she has made in the service of her nation and in international relations. From 2002 to 2009, Rice was a foreign policy senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 1995 to 1997, she served as special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. And from 1993 to 1995, she served as the director for international organizations and peacekeeping on the National Security Council. Throughout her impressive career, Ambassador Rice has promoted peace and security in regions plagued by instability and crisis and has been a champion in the difficult work to advance U.S. national security and U.S interests aboard.
President Obama recently noted of Ambassador Rice’s service, "Let me say specifically about Susan Rice: She has done exemplary work. She has represented the U.S. and our interests in the U.N. with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace."
As the recipient of the 2000 Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between states and an expert on fragile states, global poverty and transitional security, Ambassador Rice is an American treasure.
We applaud Ambassador Rice for her exemplary service to our great nation.
If the President of the United States chooses to nominate Ambassador Susan Rice to be his next Secretary of State, there is no finer public servant he could have nominated. The nation will be fortunate to have her to be its chief diplomat. Furthermore, all persons of goodwill should rally in support of her nomination and confirmation by the United States Senate.