Susan Rice, the first African-American woman named as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, brings to the job a lifetime’s work on international issues, an insider’s knowledge of the White House and State Department, and close ties to President-elect Barack Obama.
When Obama announced the appointment of his “close and trusted” senior foreign policy adviser to the U.N. post on Monday, he said Susan Rice would be a member of his Cabinet like some of her U.N. predecessors “and an integral member of my team.”
That could give Susan Rice – if she is confirmed by the Senate – a top spot in shaping U.S. foreign policy, a role she has prepared for since she was a Rhodes scholar studying international relations in the late 1980s.
Born in the nation’s capital, 44-year-old Susan Rice graduated from the National Cathedral School as valedictorian and student body president. According to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, her father, Emmett J. Rice, a former governor of the Federal Reserve System, told her to “never use race as an excuse or advantage.”
In her acceptance speech Friday, Susan Rice thanked her father and mother, education scholar Lois Dickson Fitt, “who taught me that no dream is too bold to embrace.” She also thanked her husband, television producer Ian Cameron, and their two children.
Susan Rice has roots at Stanford University, where she received her bachelor’s degree, just like another famous African-American female foreign policy expert, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is no relation.
After receiving a doctorate from Oxford University, the U.S. ambassador-designate worked as a management consultant at McKinsey and Company before heading to the White House. She served as the National Security Council’s director of International Organizations and Peacekeeping from 1993-1995, dealing with the U.N. during the 1994 Rwanda genocide when President Bill Clinton’s administration blocked U.N. intervention.
She has since advocated a more active position on “the responsibility to protect” civilians caught in conflict, especially in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where the U.N. estimates up to 300,000 people have died. In an article last year for the Brookings Institution, where she was a senior fellow before joining the Obama campaign as an unpaid adviser, Susan Rice said “Congress should authorize the use of force in order to end the genocide” in Darfur.
In 1995, Susan Rice became the White House African expert, serving as Clinton’s special assistant and the National Security Council’s senior director for African affairs. She then took that expertise to the State Department, where she served as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs from 1997-2001, a period that covered the 1998 al-Qaida terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
If confirmed, Susan Rice will follow three African-American men who have served as U.S. ambassadors to the U.N.: Andrew Young from 1977-1979; Donald McHenry from 1979-1981; and Edward Perkins from 1992-1993.
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