Meet Susan Rice, Controversial UN Ambassador

Often-blunt aspirant for Secretary of State has powerful friends, and enemies.

ByABC News
November 27, 2012, 5:18 PM

Nov. 28, 2012 -- United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, on Capitol Hill this week answering questions about her role after the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, has become yet another player in the divide between the left and right, with her possible nomination as the next Secretary of State hanging in the balance.

But who was Susan Rice before she told ABC's "This Week" and other Sunday morning shows the attack was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam film and not a premeditated act of terror? Four Americans died in the September attack.

Unlike many in government, Rice holds a rare claim to Washington, D.C.: she's a local. She hails from a prominent family with deep ties to the Democratic Party. She was born Nov. 17, 1964 to Emmett Rice, a deputy director at the Treasury Department who served as a member of Jimmy Carter's Federal Reserve board, and Lois Dickson Rice, a former program officer at the Ford Foundation who is now a higher education expert at the Brookings Institution.

As a high school student at the all-girl National Cathedral School in Washington, Rice was known as an overachiever; valedictorian, star athlete and class president. After graduating high school in 1982, she went on to study history at Stanford, where she graduated as a Truman scholar and junior Phi Beta Kappa. Rice also attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

The family has roots in Maine. In an interview with the Portland Press Herald in 2008, Lois Dickson Rice said that she held the same high expectations for her children as her mother had held for her. According to the paper, Ambassador Rice's drive to achieve spanned generations. Her maternal grandmother, an immigrant from Jamaica, was named Maine State Mother of the Year in 1950. Rice's father was only the second African-American man to be chosen for the Federal Reserve board.

Two years out of Stanford, Rice joined Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis as a foreign policy aide during his 1988 run for president. After his defeat, Rice tried her hand in the private sector, where she went on to work as a management consultant with McKinsey and Company. After President Clinton's election in 1992, she joined Clinton's National Security Council, eventually joining her mentor, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

A profile of the diplomat from Stanford paints the Rices and Albrights as old family friends.

"The Rice and Albright kids went to school together and shared meals at Hamburger Hamlet," Stanford Magazine reported in 2000.