Biography and Profile of Susan Rice

Susan Rice smiling at the camera in front of a blue background.

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Susan Elizabeth Rice (b. 1964) was nominated as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations by then-President-elect Barack Obama on December 1, 2008

  • Born: November 17, 1964, in Washington, DC
  • Education: Graduated from National Cathedral School in Washington, DC in 1982
  • Undergraduate: Stanford University, B.A. in History, 1986.
  • Graduate: Rhodes Scholar, New College, Oxford University, M.Phil., 1988, Oxford University, D.Phil. (Ph.D.) in International Relations, 1990

Family Background and Influences

Susan was born to Emmett J. Rice, Senior VP at the National Bank of Washington and Lois Dickson Rice, Senior VP for Government Affairs at Control Data Corporation.

A Fulbright Scholar who served with the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII, Emmett integrated the Berkeley Fire Department as its first Black fireman while earning a Ph.D. at the University of California. He taught economics at Cornell as the only Black assistant professor and was a governor of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1986.

A Radcliffe graduate, Lois was a former VP of the College Board and chaired an advisory council of the National Science Foundation.

High School and College Years

At the elite private girls' school that Rice attended, she was nicknamed Spo (short for Sportin'). She played three sports and was the student council president and class valedictorian. At home, the family entertained distinguished friends such as Madeleine Albright, who would later become the first female Secretary of State.

At Stanford, Rice studied hard and made her mark via political activism. To protest apartheid, she established a fund for alumni gifts but with a catch: the funds could only be accessed if the university divested from companies conducting business with South Africa, or if apartheid was abolished.

Professional Career

  • Senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama, 2005-08
  • Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy, Global Economy & Development, Brookings Institution, 2002-present
  • A senior adviser for National Security Affairs, Kerry-Edwards campaign, 2004
  • Managing Director & Principal of Intellibridge International, 2001-02
  • Management consultant, McKinsey & Company, 1991-93

Clinton Administration

  • Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1997-2001
  • Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council (NSC), 1995-97
  • Director for International Organizations & Peacekeeping, NSC, 1993-95

Political Career

While working on the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis, an aide encouraged Rice to consider the National Security Council as a future career path. She began her stint with the NSC in peacekeeping and was soon promoted to senior director for African affairs.

When she was named Assistant Secretary of State for Africa by President Bill Clinton at age 32, she became one of the youngest-ever to hold that position. Her responsibilities included overseeing the actions of more than 40 nations and 5,000 foreign service officials.

Her appointment was regarded with skepticism by some U.S. bureaucrats who cited her youth and inexperience. In Africa, concerns over cultural differences and her ability to deal effectively with traditional African male heads of state were raised. Yet Rice's skill as a charming but firm negotiator and her unflagging determination have aided her in difficult situations. Even critics acknowledge her strengths. One prominent Africa scholar has called her dynamic, a quick study, and good on her feet.

If confirmed as U.S. ambassador, Susan Rice will be the second-youngest ambassador to the UN.

Honors and Awards

  • Co-recipient of the White House’s 2000 Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between states.
  • Awarded the Chatham House-British International Studies Association Prize for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in the UK in the field of International Relations.

Ian Cameron and Susan Rice

Susan Rice married Ian Cameron on September 12, 1992, in Washington, D.C. The two met while at Stanford. Cameron is an executive producer of ABC News's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." The couple have two young children.


"Alumni." Black Community Services Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California.

Berman, Russell. "Meet Obama's 'Tenacious,' 'Take Charge' Dr. Rice." The New York Sun, January 28, 2008.

Brant, Martha. "Into Africa." Stanford Magazine, January/February 2000.

"Emmett J. Rice, Education of an Economist: From Fulbright Scholar to the Federal Reserve Board, 1951-1979." The Bancroft Library, Jean Sullivan Dobrzensky, Gabrielle Morris, University of California Black Alumni Series, The Regents of The University of California, 1984.

"Susan E. Rice." The Brookings Institution, 2019.

"WEDDINGS; Susan E. Rice, Ian Cameron." The New York Times, September 13, 1992.

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Lowen, Linda. "Biography and Profile of Susan Rice." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lowen, Linda. (2023, April 5). Biography and Profile of Susan Rice. Retrieved from Lowen, Linda. "Biography and Profile of Susan Rice." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).