Susan Elizabeth Rice (born November 17, 1964) is an American diplomat, former think tank fellow, and civil servant. She is an American foreign policy advisor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice served on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton‘s second term. Rice was confirmed as UN Ambassador by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on January 22, 2009.
Rice was born in Washington, D.C.. Her father, Emmett J. Rice (1919-2011), was a Cornell University economics professor and governor of the Federal Reserve System. Her mother is education policy scholar Lois Dickson Fitt, currently at the Brookings Institution. Her brother, John Rice, received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and is the founder of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (an organization committed to developing top minority talent for leadership roles in the business and non-profit sector). Her maternal grandparents were born in Jamaica.
Rice was a three-sport athlete, student council president, and valedictorian at National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., a private day girls’ school. She played point guard in basketball and directed the offense, acquiring the nickname “Spo,” short for “Sportin’.”
Her parents always told her to “never use race as an excuse or advantage.” As a young girl she says she “dreamed of becoming the first U.S. Senator from the District of Columbia.” She also held “lingering fears” that her accomplishments would be diminished by people who attributed them to affirmative action.
Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, Rice attended New College, Oxford, where she earned a M.Phil. in 1988 and D.Phil. in 1990. The Chatham House-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation titled “Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping” as the UK’s most distinguished in international relations.
Rice’s classmates and professors at Oxford included advocates of the role of the United Nations and international law (Sir Adam Roberts, Benedict Kingsbury), of global economic governance and international economic cooperation (Ngaire Woods, Donald Markwell), and of a firm stance against Russian authoritarianism (Michael McFaul).
Marriage, family and early career
Rice married ABC News producer Ian Officer Cameron (born in Victoria, British Columbia) in 1992 in Washington, DC at a chapel in The National Cathedral. They met as students at Stanford. They have two children.
Rice was a foreign policy aide to Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential election. She was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm, in the early 1990s. While at McKinsey, Rice was affiliated with the firm’s Toronto office where she and her husband lived for a time.
Susan Rice was viewed by many officials and diplomats as very bright, but also as inexperienced and inflexible. Rice was considered[by whom?] “young, brilliant, and ambitious” and she worked to “integrate Africa in the global economy while at the same time aiming to increase U.S. national security”; even as she was criticized by detractors who considered her “authoritarian, brash, and unwilling to consider opinions that differ[ed] from her own”. Reportedly, the young Rice engaged in various disputes involving career diplomats within the State Department’s African bureau.
Clinton administration roles
Rice served in the Clinton administration in various capacities: at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997; as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping from 1993 to 1995; and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs from 1995 to 1997.
At the time of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Rice reportedly said, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Rice subsequently acknowledged the mistakes made at the time and felt that a debt needed repaying. The inability or failure of the Clinton administration to do anything about the genocide would inform her later views on possible military interventions. She would later say of the experience: “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”
Rice supported the multinational force that invaded Zaire from Rwanda in 1996 and overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, saying privately that “Anything’s better than Mobutu.” Others criticized the U.S. complicity in the violation of the Congo’s borders as destabilizing and dangerous.
In a 2002 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, former Ambassador to Sudan Timothy M. Carney and news contributor Mansoor Ijaz implicated Rice and counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke in missing an opportunity to neutralize Osama bin Laden while he was still in Sudan in 1996. They write that Sudan and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were ready to cooperate on intelligence potentially leading to Bin Laden, but that Rice and Clarke persuaded National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to overrule Albright. Similar allegations have been made by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose and Richard Miniter, author of Losing Bin Laden, in a November 2003 interview with World.
While the writings of Carney, Ijaz, Rose and Miniter each claim that Sudan offered to turn Bin Laden over to the US and that Rice was central in the decision not to accept the offer, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9-11 Commission) concluded in part “Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Laden over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Laden. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding.”
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been a longtime mentor and family friend to Rice. Albright urged Clinton to appoint Rice as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997. Rice was not the first choice of Congressional Black Caucus leaders, who considered Rice a member of “Washington’s assimilationist black elite”. At a confirmation hearing chaired by Senator Jesse Helms, Rice, who attended the hearing along with her infant son, whom she was then nursing, made a great impression on Senators from both parties and “sailed through the confirmation process”. Rice was Assistant Secretary for African Affairs until Clinton left office in 2001.
On July 7, 1998, while serving as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Rice was a member of an American delegation to visit detained Nigerian President-Elect Basorun M.K.O. Abiola. During this meeting, Abiola had a heart attack which caused his death.
Business and think tank activities
Rice was managing director and principal at Intellibridge from 2001 to 2002. In 2002, she joined the Brookings Institution as senior fellow in the Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development program. At Brookings, she focused on U.S. foreign policy, weak and failing states, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Rice served as a foreign policy adviser to John Kerry.
Rice went on leave from the Brookings Institution to serve as a senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. On November 5, 2008, Rice was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
On December 1, 2008, Rice was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position which he also upgraded to cabinet level. Rice is the second youngest and first African American woman US Representative to the UN. Dr. Rice has announced she will have both a transition team in place in New York and in Washington, DC at the State Department to be headed by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In light of the 2011 Libyan civil war Ambassador Rice gave a statement following a White House meeting with President Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as the United States increased pressure on the Libyan leader to give up power. Rice made clear that the United States and the international community saw only one choice for Gaddafi and his aides: step down from power or face significant consequences. Rice offered some of the toughest rhetoric toward Gaddafi, blasting his denials of atrocities against his own citizens as “frankly, delusional.” “It only underscores how unfit he is to lead, and how disconnected he is from reality,” Rice said. Rice praised the U.N. Security Council for the unanimous resolution it passed that called for the freezing of Libyan government assets and military aid to the country. It also referred all claims of abuse of the Libyan people directly to the International Criminal Court.
Together with National Security Council figure Samantha Power, who already supported military intervention, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who came to support it, the three overcame internal opposition from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, security advisor Thomas Donilon, and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, and the administration backed U.N. action to impose the no-fly zone and authorize other military actions as necessary. On 17 March 2011 Rice voted for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which sanctioned a Libyan no-fly zone. The UK, France and Lebanon voted for the resolution while Brazil, Germany and India, and permanent members China and Russia both abstained. Rice and Clinton played major roles in getting the Security Council to approve this resolution, Clinton said that same day that establishing a no-fly zone over Libya would require the bombing of air defenses, as the U.S. seeks broad action to protect civilians fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Rice said that “We are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Gaddafi regime to halt the killing and to allow the Libyan people to express themselves in their aspirations for the future freely and peacefully,”
On March 29, 2011, Rice said that the Obama administration had not ruled out arming the rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America program, Rice said there was no indication that Gaddafi was prepared to leave power without continued pressure from the International community. Referring to reports that members of Gaddafi’s inner circle were reaching out to the West, she said: “We will be more persuaded by actions rather than prospects or feelers. … The message for Gaddafi and those closest to him is that history is not on their side. Time is not on their side. The pressure is mounting. In January 2012 after the Russian and Chinese veto of a UNSC resolution, Rice strongly condemned both countries for vetoing a resolution calling on Bashar al-Assad to step down. “They put a stake in the heart of efforts to resolve this conflict peacefully,” Rice said on CNN. “The tragedy is for the people of Syria. We the United States are standing with the people of Syria. Russia and China are obviously with Assad.” She added that “Russia and China will, I think, come to regret this action”. “They have … by their veto dramatically increased the risk of greater violence, and you’ve seen manifestations of that.” In her words, “the United States is disgusted that a couple of members of this Council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose.”
Susan Rice serves on the boards of several organizations, including the National Democratic Institute, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, board of directors of the Atlantic Council, advisory board of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, the board of directors of Bureau of National Affairs, board of directors of Partnership for Public Service, the Beauvoir National Cathedral Elementary School, and past member of the Internews Network’s board of directors.
Awards and honors
- Rice was inducted into Stanford’s Black Alumni Hall of Fame in 2002.
- Served as Baccalaureate Speaker, at Spelman College (Atlanta, GA), in May 2010.
- Served as the Commencement Speaker, at Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA), in June 2010