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Susan Rice On What's 'Worth Fighting For,' From Her Career In American Diplomacy

In this photo taken April 29, 2016, National Security Adviser Susan Rice is seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
In this photo taken April 29, 2016, National Security Adviser Susan Rice is seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Ambassador Susan Rice on lessons learned serving in the Obama administration.


Susan Rice, former national security adviser and U.S ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama. Author of “ Tough Love: My Story Of The Things Worth Fighting For.” ( @AmbassadorRice)

From The Reading List

Excerpt from “Tough Love” by Susan Rice

From the book TOUGH LOVE: My Story Of The Things Worth Fighting For by Susan Rice. Copyright © 2019 by Susan Rice. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

New York Times: “ Susan Rice Recounts Making Policy at the Highest Levels” — “To hear conservatives tell it, the most important day of Susan Rice’s career occurred on Sept. 16, 2012, five days after Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American officials were killed in Benghazi, Libya. Rice became the public face of the Obama administration’s initial response to that tragedy, and for that, she became a bogeyman on the right. And so it is notable that Rice devotes only a single page in ‘Tough Love,’ her 500-page memoir, to Sept. 11, the day of the attack. This might be read as her quiet rebellion against the outsize impact that day has had on her legacy as United Nations ambassador and President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. Rice’s wings were clipped after Benghazi. Her hopes of becoming Obama’s second-term secretary of state ended with that controversy.

“In fact, Rice’s personal story begins far earlier — more than a century earlier. Her great-grandfather, the Rev. Walter Allen Simpson Rice, was born a slave in South Carolina and later founded the Bordentown School in New Jersey, which became known as the ‘Tuskegee of the North.’ Her Jamaican immigrant grandparents remade their lives in Maine. All five of their children attended college, and this was done on the salary of a janitor and a seamstress. In Rice’s family history, there is a convergence of two different types of experiences for blacks in America. One began with slavery in America, the other with economic migration to the United States.

“By the time she came to grow up in Washington, D.C., Rice was already the beneficiary of an enormous amount of privilege that gave her access to well-heeled private schooling, elite advanced degrees and membership in the even more elite Washington society. Her father, a World War II officer who endured segregation and discrimination and was later appointed to the Federal Reserve Board by President Jimmy Carter, always struggled with the burden of race. Her mother faced down the dual burden of being black and a woman as she became one of the few black women at Radcliffe College.”

CBS News: “ Susan Rice on Trump, Benghazi and motherhood: ‘Maybe I was an attractive target’” — “Susan Rice has spent 25 years in public service, including a stint as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. — but after feeling targeted in one of the most bruising political fights in memory, Benghazi, she felt it was time to regain control of her narrative. To do so, the former national security adviser just released her memoir: ‘Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.’

In the days following the deadly assault on the U.S. embassy in Libya in 2012, Rice appeared on a number of Sunday shows. She shared intelligence on the shows that later turned out to be inaccurate, prompting some Republicans to accuse her of lying.

“‘I was close to President Obama and he was a target,’ Rice said. ‘I’m an African American woman. I don’t take crap off of people. And I’m confident in my own skin… Putting all that together, put it in a political context of the campaign, and maybe I was an attractive target.’ ”

NPR: “ In ‘Tough Love,’ Former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice Aims To Reclaim Her Voice” — “In her candid memoir Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, Susan Rice does something she says she couldn’t as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations or as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser: tell her story. And she does, in a personal and honest manner.

“As one commentator noted, Rice became ‘the right’s favorite chew toy’ after the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. After her now infamous Sunday talk show interviews, where she used talking points written by the intelligence community, words like ‘cover-up,’ ‘incompetent,’ and ‘untrustworthy,’ were ones her critics used to describe her. And it stung. The book allows her to defend herself, to ‘reclaim’ her voice. In a clear, systematic way, like the policy veteran she is, she takes each Benghazi charge leveled against her and swats it down point by point.

“However, Rice is also honest about the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures. She tries to show the difficulty, uncertainty and miscalculations involved. She writes:

“‘Failure, as I discovered early, is an inevitable result of policy making. We did fail; we will fail. Our aim must be to minimize the frequency and the prices of failure, while learning from our mistakes — and hopefully not the wrong lessons.’ “

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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