Africa’s Strategic Importance to the U.S.

Susan E. Rice
Susan E. Rice Former Brookings Expert, Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow - School of International Service, American University

March 20, 2006

Good evening. I want to begin by thanking Dawn Teele and Professor Paul Gronke for bringing me here as well as the Oregon World Affairs Council and, especially, the sponsors of the Munk-Darling lecture series.

I am truly honored by the invitation to Reed College and grateful for your warm welcome. I’ve been privileged to spend much of my day here with Reed students and am thoroughly impressed by this unique and remarkable place. I am looking forward now to spending some time with you discussing what I hope you will agree is an important topic.

First, allow me to extend greetings from that strange and rarified place, Washington, D.C. Now, Washington is actually my hometown, and I love it. But, I am sad to say that, though I am not so old, even in my lifetime, so much there has changed. In the last fifteen years, and even more so in the last several, Washington has become incredibly polarized. Partisan rancor is at an all time high. True states-men and women, the venerable work-horses of Congress, are few and far between. Effective congressional oversight is almost an oxymoron.

Yet, in other ways, not enough has changed. Those of us who care about Africa must lament that, in the hierarchy of national security priorities, conventional wisdom still places Africa near the bottom. Some Members of Congress, regrettably, deem assignment to the Africa subcommittee as “drawing the short straw.” Sometimes, the most ambitious Foreign Service officers prefer postings to Europe or Asia or the Middle East over Africa. So, along with others, I labor to try to change the perception that Africa matters only marginally. I do so, because such ignorance is not just shameful. It’s dangerous.