Ambassador Susan Rice on “Tough Love”

Ambassador Susan Rice on “Tough Love”


[SMITH] Why is this book called “Tough Love?” [RICE] For so many reasons, it fit my whole
story. That’s how my parents raised me. It’s how my husband and I have tried to raise
our kids. It’s how I’ve tried to lead teams and serve
our country. When you love somebody, truly, you’re willing
to tell them the hard truths. [SMITH] Yeah, but that can be hard and people
today don’t want to hear the truth. [RICE] Really? [SMITH] They wanna hear, as you know They
want to hear their version of the truth. [RICE] Yeah. [SMITH] That you think it’s important, regardless
of the circumstance or situation, personal or professional, always tell the truth. Always tell the truth. [RICE] And tell the hard truth, because as
my parents were raising me, if they saw me falling short or not doing my best or cutting
corners, or slacking off, they’d tell me. [SMITH] They didn’t let you get away with
it. [RICE] And that was hugely valuable, ’cause
they knew what I could do. And when I’m having the extraordinary privilege
of serving this country and representing us to the world, and I love this country fiercely. But I also know we’re not perfect. [SMITH] You know that there are blemishes
along with the beauty. [RICE] We’ve made some mistakes. [SMITH] You think you made mistakes when you
were there, not only mistakes you’ve observed others make? [RICE] Of course! I’m talking about historical mistakes, mistakes
in the present and we’ll make mistakes in the future. But, the important thing is that we acknowledge
them and we learn from them and hopefully not the wrong lessons. [SMITH] The people who pick up this book and
think this is going to be a book about only foreign policy, international affairs, international
relations, it really is, to your point, about family, it’s a book about family. And the part that I love is the part that
I had absolutely no idea about. Because all the years you were in public life,
the visible part of the iceberg was you doing your National Security Advisor thing or you’re
U.N. Ambassador thing. But the part that we didn’t see, the submerged
part, was all this family stuff. And you have an amazing family story. [RICE] Thank you. [SMITH] And your parents are such interesting
and accomplished people and such role models. And clearly, were important to you. [RICE] Hugely important. First of all, I didn’t wanna write a boring
foreign policy book, frankly, I mean you know, we’ve done that. [SMITH] Right. [RICE] And yet, I wanted to make the policy
pieces of it interesting and accessible. But like every human being I have a job, I
have a life. [SMITH] You have a story, you have a life. [RICE] I have a history. [SMITH] So, your mom was the child of immigrants? [RICE] She was. [SMITH] She came from Jamaica to the state
of Maine? [RICE] Her parents and my grandparents came
from Jamaica with no education to Portland, Maine in 1912. You can imagine there weren’t a whole of folks
in Portland who looked like me. [SMITH] Well, your mom, in fact, talked about
being a poor colored girl from Portland, Maine. [RICE] That was how she thought she thought
of herself. Except, then my grandparents come here and
like so many immigrants with ambition and hard work, they scraped and they saved and
they sent all five of their kids to college. [SMITH] Then, at that time– [RICE] Back then,
in the ’30s and ’40s, my mom the youngest, went to college in 1950. And my four uncles, two of them were doctors. One an optometrist, one a university president,
and then along comes my mother. All four of my uncles were sent to Bowdoin
College in Maine, which is a small private college. And, grandparents didn’t know what to do with
my mother, ’cause Bowdoin, at that point, didn’t take women. And so they really were flummoxed and then
they heard about this place called Radcliffe College. [SMITH] It was no Bowdoin. [RICE] It was not Bowdoin! [SMITH] It was okay. [RICE] In my family it was not Bowdoin. Then it became part of Harvard. [SMITH] And then she goes on to be one of
the people responsible for the development of the Pell Grant program. [RICE] Right. [SMITH] So she ends up creating opportunity
for the rest of us. [RICE] And she did that because she understood
the value of education. [SMITH] Incredible. [RICE] And she almost lost the opportunity
herself to go to college. Her father had had a catastrophic accident. He was a janitor in a music store and he fell
down an elevator shaft and broke his back and broke his feet and was in the hospital
for months and months. All their savings evaporated and my mom was
denied the Maine state scholarship for Radcliffe because she was black. They told her that you can’t have the scholarship
because the terms are that when you graduate you’re supposed to come back to Maine and
move in the “proper circles,” that was the terminology, in order to raise money for Radcliffe. Since you’re black you can’t move in the proper
circles. [SMITH] Right, amazing. [RICE] So, she was denied that but her high
school principal where she was the valedictorian and her debate coach and she was a national
champion debater, went directly to Radcliffe and appealed for help for her and got it. [SMITH] And got it. [RICE] And so that enabled her to go to Radcliffe. [SMITH] That’s a great story. [RICE] And that’s why she had that passion
for education and for the Pell Grant program. I just gotta say, [SMITH] Please. 80 million Americans have gone to college
because of– [SMITH] The Pell Grants, that’s right. [RICE] And the– And the Department of Education
did not know that fact when I was writing this book. And we kept bugging them and bugging them
along with Claiborne Pell’s grandson. [SMITH] Give us the number. They knew how many grants they’ve given, but,
not how many people had benefited.

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