Albright became a mentor, helping to elevate Rice to assistant secretary of state for African Affairs when Rice was 32. They have been so close that people assumed Rice was her godchild, Albright said in an interview. She isn’t. But Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a wealthy D.C. art patron, was a kind of surrogate godmother. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton took Rice to lunch when she was deciding whether to attend law school.
When asked, Rice estimates that only 10 percent of her high school graduating class was African American. But race was something that her parents didn’t want her to dwell on. “They taught me never to use race as an excuse or a crutch,” she said Thursday.
She took her father’s death last year hard, friends say, and worries about spending so much time away from her family in Washington, as well as her mother, who has battled health issues. She has remarked that “somebody can take your place at the Security Council, but nobody can take your place in the hospital room.”
There was never any doubt that Rice would make her home in Washington. She “never wanted to live outside the city,” she said. She lives in Northwest Washington, with her husband, Ian Cameron, a television producer she met while attending Stanford University. Inheritances from Cameron’s and Rice’s families, as well as her own investments, are chiefly responsible for her $20 million-plus net worth, which has drawn attention this week because she holds stocks in Canadian oil companies that could benefit from construction of the Keystone Pipeline, a project that she might have some influence over if she were named secretary of state.
Rice was aware that some might look askance at her and her husband because Cameron is white and she is black. “But why the hell should I be constrained by prejudices with which I totally disagree?” she said in a 1998 interview with The Washington Post. “That doesn’t mean that I’m less of an African American.”
At dinner parties in the couple’s home, the music invariably gets turned up and Rice, whose public persona can be so deadly serious, will laugh and dance, says her former chief of staff, Brooke Anderson. Rhythm and blues will pour out of the speakers. “I like old-school,” Rice says.
That smiling, gregarious Rice is the one her close associates like to talk about. But a meme has chased Rice through much of her steep and speedy rise, and it is more present than ever as her name dangles out there as a possible secretary of state. She is the sharp-elbowed one, the brusque one, the one who flipped off the famed diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the one who likes to cuss.