Delivering a down-to-earth commencement address Wednesday at Florida International University in Miami, National Security Advisor Susan Rice urged graduates to look past disparaging remarks about America’s diversity, telling them to “ignore the haters.”
“Now, there are voices out there that disparage our diversity—that question whether America should welcome people of all races, religions, and creeds,” she said, according to a White House transcript. “Those voices can be loud. They can be intimidating. They can make us feel like we don’t belong. But, you know what? Let fear be their problem, not yours. Shake it off. Ignore the haters. And, don’t you dare let them slow you down.”
The advice comes amid a racially divisive presidential race as Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants and proposed a temporary ban on Muslims.
Rice, 51, the country’s advisor to the United Nations, also called for more “diversity in the realm of foreign policy and national security.”
She said that minorities make up less than 20 percent of the nation’s senior diplomats, and less than 15 percent of senior military officers and senior intelligence officials. Rice also said the nation’s national security workforce is comprised of what “former Florida Senator Bob Graham called ‘White, male, and Yale.’”
Noting the nation’s population of 320 million, she said nearly 40 percent are people of color, and an increasing number of them are earning college and graduate degrees.
“As America becomes more diverse, so do our best people,” she said. “The next [former U.S. Secretary of States] Colin Powell or Madeleine Albright or [former U.S. Secretary of Energy] Bill Richardson is out there. Our country—and our policies—will be stronger if we can bring them on-board.”
She said diversity could help avert “groupthink.”
“By now, we should all know the dangers of ‘groupthink,’” she said, “where folks who are alike often think alike. By contrast, groups comprised of different people tend to question one another’s assumptions, draw on divergent perspectives and experiences, and yield better outcomes. Whether we’re confronting [ISIS] or Ebola, cybersecurity or climate change, solving today’s multifaceted global challenges demand more varied viewpoints and experiences than ever. Intelligence analysts, diplomats and military officers who are native speakers may pick up subtle nuances that might otherwise go unnoticed.”
Rice ended the speech by encouraging students to get out of their comfort zone, travel the world, be fearless, and to do what stirs their souls. She also challenged them to be about making change, and to be an example and mentor others.
“It’s hard to make progress without breaking a little crockery,” she said of being fearless. “So, don’t sweat what others think of you. And, don’t be afraid to go down fighting, if you’re fighting a righteous battle.”
SOURCE: White House | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty