Washington Democrats press diversity theme
By Evan Lips | May 13, 2016, 18:31 EDT
Several Democratic political figures seem to be operating from the same playbook this spring, using their bully pulpits to advocate for increased racial and ethnic diversity, particularly when it comes to leading roles in critical national institutions.
The latest push for greater diversity came from Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, who on Wednesday urged international and public affairs graduates of Florida International University in Miami to demand a more diverse national security workforce.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry hammered the diversity theme in his commencement address at Northeastern University in Boston.
“You are the most diverse class in Northeastern’s history – in other words, you are Donald Trump’s worst nightmare,” Kerry told graduates, taking a swipe at the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and real estate mogul who has proposed building a wall at the Mexican border to stem the tide of illegal immigration.
On Wednesday, Rice, who withdrew her name in from consideration to replace retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, criticized the U.S. national security apparatus for being too white.
“Too often, our national security workforce has been what former Florida Sen. Bob Graham called ‘white, male, and Yale,’” Rice, who is black, told graduates, according to a transcript released later. “In the halls of power, in the faces of our national security leaders, America is still not fully reflected.
Rice argued that a “diverse national security workforce enables us to unlock all of our nation’s talent,” while pointing out that 40 percent of America’s 320 million people are minorities. “Minorities still make up less than 20 percent of our senior diplomats – less than 15 percent of senior military officers and senior intelligence officials.”
She asserted that a push to put more minority workers and service personnel into jobs with national security responsibilities would help.
“Intelligence analysts, diplomats and military officers who are native speakers may pick up subtle nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed,” she said. “Diplomats who can read cultural cues may better navigate the political and social currents of a foreign nation. In sum, leaders from diverse backgrounds can often come up with more creative insights, proffer alternative solutions and thus make better decisions.”
“I’m not talking about a human resources issue – I’m highlighting a national security imperative,” she said.
Asked about Rice’s speech, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday that Obama supports Rice’s message.
“The president certainly believes that our government is most effective and is making the best decisions when we have a government that looks like the country,” Earnest said. “And the president has made a concerted effort to encourage Americans of all backgrounds to consider a career in public service.”
Reaction to Rice’s speech on social media included a range of comments, including this from Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clark:
Booker T had Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder and Obama in mind when he said this. pic.twitter.com/5NLL1AvP4f
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) May 12, 2016
And . . . There’s never, ever been a less effective NSC in the history of America. Dovetails nicely. #susanrice
— Dave McAlpine (@davidcmcalpine) May 13, 2016
the black woman susan rice whining about ‘2 many ‘white pepole’ in top natl security positions is the racist https://t.co/ySvpd5gOHf
— Laurinda Cole (@apostlelaurinda) May 13, 2016
— Joe Public (@lostnatn) May 13, 2016
Rice delivered her remarks a day before Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic lawmakers criticized the Federal Reserve over an apparent dearth of minorities and women holding leadership positions in the nation’s central bank. Coincidentally, Rice’s father, who is black, held a high leadership post after being tapped in 1979 for a position on the Federal Reserve Board, a leadership group among those targeted by Warren and other Democratic lawmakers in Washington.
In a 2011 obituary, the Washington Post reported that Emmett J. Rice “never” imagined that someday he’d work at the Federal Reserve.
“That’s one of the great horrors of racial discrimination,” Rice told Ebony magazine in 1984, according to the Post. “It would have been totally unrealistic for me to prepare to go to the Federal Reserve.”