Susan E. Rice who served as United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations in President Barack Obama’s administration, received the Luminary Award at the ninth annual University of the West Indies (UWI) Toronto Benefit Gala on Saturday.
On accepting the award, Rice spoke of the importance of higher education and recalled the sacrifice which her Jamaican grandparents made in sending their five children to America’s top colleges.
She also praised the work of the University of the West Indies.
The following is an excerpt from her remarks at the gala:
First and foremost, I am proud to be here today as a descendant of the proud nation of Jamaica. But beyond my ancestral ties, I am pleased to support the mission of the University of the West Indies, as a living example of exactly what is possible through the power of education.
My grandparents immigrated to Portland, Maine from Manchester Parish, Jamaica, in the early 1900s, fiercely proud of their West Indian heritage and determined to seek greater opportunities for their future family. With minimal schooling themselves and only able to obtain menial labor, they deemed education critical to social and economic progress in their adopted country and stopped at nothing to provide that for their children. Through hard work, sacrifice, and pure Jamaican resourcefulness, they were able to send four sons and one daughter—my mother—to America’s nation’s top colleges, where they each excelled and then built successful careers.
The bottom line is as clear now as it was then: there’s no substitute for higher education as a key to achieving one’s personal and professional dreams. This is a lesson my parents taught me, and that I, in turn, strive to teach my own children. And, every day, the University of the West Indies expands that promise to future generations of scientists, teachers, doctors, lawyers and other leaders.
Thanks to your efforts, each year 48,000 students in Jamaica and across the Caribbean have the opportunity that my grandparents never had — to obtain a university degree. That is a legacy to truly be proud of, and one that I am honored and humbled to support. Thank you for this award. And thank you more for the important work you continue to do.