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USA | Dec 15, 2020

Susan Rice pays tribute to Jamaican roots on appointment as Biden’s Director of White House’s Domestic Policy Council

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Susan Rice, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. (Photo: PBS)

U.S. political heavyweight Susan Rice gave a nod to her Jamaican ancestry in accepting the nomination of President-elect Joe Biden as Director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.

 Rice served in key positions in the Obama administration, first as Ambassador to the United Nations then as National Security Advisor.

The 56-year-old American is a top diplomat and policy advisor. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Oxford and served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff from 1993 to 1997.

Here are her remarks on accepting her nomination:

Susan Rice: In the 21st Century, our foreign economic and domestic imperatives are deeply intertwined.

Thank you so much, Mr. President-Elect, Madam Vice President-Elect. I’m honored to join this tremendous team. Today we confront a profoundly connected set of crises: a relentless pandemic, a struggling economy, urgent demands for racial equity and justice, a climate in need of healing, a democracy in need to repair, and a world in need of renewed American leadership. In the 21st Century, our foreign economic and domestic imperatives are deeply intertwined.

My maternal grandparents came to this country from Jamaica with no education, but working for decades as a janitor and a maid, they saved and they scraped to send all five of their children to college and on to professional success.

Tackling these challenges is personal to me. I am a descendant of immigrants and the enslaved, and service is in our blood. My paternal great-grandfather was born a slave in South Carolina and joined the Union army. He went on to get a college degree, become an AME minister, and he founded the Borden Town School in New Jersey, which for seven decades provided African-Americans with vocational and college preparatory educations. Two generations later, my father Emmett Rice served as a Tuskegee airman and as a governor of the federal reserve.

My maternal grandparents came to this country from Jamaica with no education, but working for decades as a janitor and a maid, they saved and they scraped to send all five of their children to college and on to professional success. My mother, Lois Rice, was known as the mother of the Pell Grant programme, which has enabled 80 million Americans to reach college, and, as she liked to say, ‘Not bad for a poor, coloured girl from Portland, Maine’.

But today, for far too many, the American dream has become an empty promise, a cruel mockery of lives held back by barriers, new and old. That is not good enough for any American. But we know that, throughout our history, Americans have forged opportunity out of crisis. After the Civil War, we ended slavery and enshrined the concept of equal protection under the law. During the Great Depression, we established the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps. After World War II, we enacted the GI bill. In the 1960s, we abolished legal segregation, established full voting rights, and enacted Medicare and Medicaid.

The U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor Susan Rice talk as U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi brief the press after a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo: NPR.org)

Now, at the foot of yet another bridge between crisis and opportunity, I’m honoured and excited to take on this role. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ vision for our future is expansive, but achievable. America must finally become a nation where every child, from Akron to Arkansas, from the Bronx to Brownsville, from the Sioux nation to South Central Los Angeles, can dream without limits and make their dreams come true.

I have no illusions about the difficulty of making that vision real, but we are here to get hard stuff done. Our top priorities will be to help end the pandemic and revitalise the economy so that it delivers for all. To bring dignity and humanity to our broken immigration system, to advance racial equity, justice and civil rights for all. To ensure that healthcare is accessible and affordable, and to educate and train Americans to compete and thrive in the 21st Century.

I profoundly believe that we all rise or fall together. Absolutely all of us. So, Mr. President-Elect, Madam Vice President- Elect, I promise you, I will do everything I can to help this country I love to build back better, to make our government deliver for all Americans, and for working families, and to bring the American dream far closer to reality for all. Thank you very much.

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