Sunday, March 9, 2014
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President-elect Barack Obama poses with Susan Rice and her family after nominating her to be U.S. Representative to the United Nations at a Chicago news conference last week. Left to right are Rice�s mother, Lois Dickson Rice; Obama; Rice�s son, Jake Rice-Cameron; Rice�s daughter, Maris Rice-Cameron; Rice; Rice�s husband, Ian Cameron; and Rice�s father, Emmett J. Rice.
On his janitor's salary, the Dicksons raised five children in Portland's Munjoy Hill neighborhood. The four oldest, all boys, graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick; two became physicians, one became an optometrist and one became a college president.
Dickson Rice, the baby sister, was valedictorian of Portland High School in 1950 and was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate and class president of Radcliffe College in 1954. She later received honorary doctorates from Bowdoin College and Brown University.
''My parents were very motivated people, especially in terms of educating their children,'' Dickson Rice said. ''They had never heard of a scholarship. Daddy just mortgaged and re-mortgaged our home to put us through college.''
Mary Daly Dickson was named Maine State Mother of the Year in 1950. Dickson Rice wrote about her mother in a full-page Portland Sunday Telegram article on the award:
''Her children not only were fed and clothed well, but had to perform and appreciate music, read good books and cultivate learning in every form,'' Dickson Rice wrote when she was 17. ''When she discovered abilities in her children, she and her husband literally moved financial obstacles of mountainous proportions to educate them in the best colleges and universities.''
Dickson Rice said she and her first husband, Emmett J. Rice, had similarly high expectations for their own children. Their son, John Rice, graduated from Harvard and Yale and is founder and chairman of Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that recruits and mentors minority students for the nation's top business schools.
Since Obama nominated Susan Rice to be U.N. ambassador, political pundits have lauded and criticized his choice, depending on where they stand on national security issues and what they think of Obama's plan to reform U.S. foreign policy strategies.
Dickson Rice said her daughter is up for the challenge. ''She's seasoned and she's tough,'' she said.
She said her daughter's nomination was the highlight of a year that, with the election of the nation's first black president, has been extraordinary for many African Americans.
''This is a transformational moment in our country,'' Dickson Rice said. ''I didn't know what to do with myself the day after the election.''
Dickson Rice met Obama early in the campaign. ''I found him both inspired and inspiring,'' she said, and she believes his genuine warmth, intellect, calm and organization will make him a good president.
Dickson Rice said she's proud to have raised a daughter who is one of Obama's trusted advisers and could play a key role in improving U.S. foreign relations in the years ahead.
''It's been a fantastic journey,'' she said.
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: