Condoleezza Rice

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Official portrait of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice (born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham) was the 66th United States Secretary of State and the first African American woman to serve as Secretary of State.

Rice took over the State Department after Colin Powell's January 26, 2005 resignation. She was previously Bush's National Security Advisor during his first term (2001–2005), and had coordinated his foreign policy platform during the 2000 election. Before joining the Bush administration, Rice was a professor of political science at Stanford University and served as its 10th provost, from 1993 to 1999. During the administration of George H. W. Bush, which saw the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, Rice served as a top Soviet and Eastern European Affairs Advisor.

In March 2009, Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

Early life in Birmingham

Rice was born in Birmingham and grew up on Center Way in the black middle-class neighborhood of Titusville. She is the only child of Reverend John Wesley Rice Jr. and his wife, the former Angelena Ray. Reverend Rice was minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church, founded by his father,John Sr, and a gym teacher and basketball coach at Fairfield Industrial High School. Mrs Rice, a Miles College graduate, taught music and science at Fairfield Industrial High School. The name "Condoleezza" is derived from the Italian expression (used in musical notation), con dolcezza, meaning "with sweetness".

Condoleezza started learning French, music, figure skating and ballet at age three. She was largely sheltered from the injustices of Birmingham's discriminatory laws and attitudes. Although she attended the Hill School in Graymont, she was allowed to join the band at Lane Elementary School on Southside, where she played the glockenspiel.

Rice received most of her education at home, and was instructed to walk proudly in public, and to use the facilities at home rather than subject themselves to the indignity of "colored" facilities in town. As Rice recalls of her parents and their peers, "they refused to allow the limits and injustices of their time to limit our horizons.” (Birmingham Times - 2005)

During the violent days of the Civil Rights Movement, Reverend Rice armed himself and kept guard over the house while Condoleezza practiced the piano inside. From the pulpit he denigrated Fred Shuttlesworth's activism as "misguided" and instilled in his daughter and students that black people would have to prove themselves worthy of advancement, and would simply have to be "twice as good" to overcome injustices built into the system.

Rice was eight when her 11-year-old schoolmate Denise McNair was killed in the 1963 bombing of the primarily African-American 16th Street Baptist Church by white supremacists.

In 1967, when Condoleezza was 12, the family moved to Denver when her father accepted an administrative position at the University of Denver. She attended St Mary's Academy High School, a small all-girls Catholic High school.


At age 15, she began classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. Her plans changed when she realized that she did not play well enough to support herself through music alone. She said that her playing was "pretty good but not great", and that she did not have enough time to devote to practice. (She would later make use of her piano training to accompany cellist Yo-Yo Ma for Brahms's Violin Sonata in D minor at Constitution Hall in April 2002 for the National Medal of Arts Awards. She also played Glenn Gould's piano while meeting with Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall on October 25, 2005.

After studying piano at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Rice enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father served as assistant dean and taught a class called "The Black Experience in America". Dean John Rice was extremely opposed to institutional racism, government oppression and was vocal protester of the Vietnam War. When invited to speak in May of 1971 at a campus memorial service for the students slain at Kent and Jackson State the previous year, Dean Rice eulogized the dead students and challenged those present: "When tomorrow comes will you be the perpetuators of war or of peace? Are you the generation to bring to America a lasting peace? Or did your brothers and sisters at Kent and Jackson State die in vain?"

Rice attended a course on international politics taught by Josef Korbel, the father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This experience sparked her interest in the Soviet Union and international relations and made her call Korbel "one of the most central figures in my life."

Rice graduated from St Mary's Academy in the class of 1970. In 1974, at age 19, Rice earned her B.A. in political science and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Denver. In 1975, she obtained her Master's Degree in political science from the Notre Dame. She first worked in the State Department in 1977, during the Carter administration, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 1981, at the age of 26, she received her PhD in political science from the Graduate School of International Studies at Denver. In addition to English, she speaks fluent Russian, and, with varying degrees of fluency, German, French, and Spanish.

Rice was a Democrat until 1982 when she changed her political affiliation to Republican after growing averse to former President Carter's foreign policy.

Rice is unmarried, but was temporarily engaged to Rick Upchurch, who played for the Denver Broncos.

Academic career

Rice was hired by Stanford University as an Assistant Professor in Political Science (1981–1987). She was granted tenure and promoted, first to Associate Professor (1987-1993), and then (she was off-campus from 1989-1991) to Provost (the chief budget and academic officer of the university) and full Professor (1993-July 2000). She was also named a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Senior Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution. She was a specialist on the former Soviet Union and gave lectures on the subject for the Berkeley-Stanford joint program led by UC Berkeley Professor George Breslauer in the mid-1980s. She also was an avid reader of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and reportedly once told a friend she leaned toward the latter in her world view. She was said to be quietly cerebral, friendly but decorous, and popular among students. Friends and co-workers often saw her exercising in the gym or serving breakfast to undergraduates at Midnight Breakfast, a Stanford tradition during final exams.

As Stanford's Provost, Rice was responsible for managing the university's multi-billion dollar budget. In addition to being the first woman and the first African–American to be Provost of Stanford, she was also the youngest Provost in the university’s history. The school at that time was over $20,000,000 in debt. When Rice took office, she promised that the budget deficit would be balanced within "two years". Says Coit Blacker, Stanford's deputy director of the Institute for International Studies, "There was a sort of conventional wisdom that said it couldn't be done . . . that [the deficit] was structural, that we just had to live with it." Two years later, Rice convened a meeting to announce that not only had the deficit been balanced, but the university was holding a record surplus of over $14,500,000. Provost Rice was also responsible for relations with student organizations.

After departing to enter government service, she returned to Stanford in June 2002 to deliver the commencement address.

Rice is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995, the Mississippi College School of Law in 2003, the University of Louisville, Michigan State University in 2004, and Boston College Law School in 2006.

She has written or collaborated on several books, including Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995), The Gorbachev Era (1986), and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984).

Business career

Rice has served on the board of directors for Chevron, Charles Schwab, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Transamerica, Hewlett Packard, The Carnegie Corporation, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Rand Corporation, and KQED (San Francisco public broadcasting).

She was also on the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame, the International Advisory Council of J.P. Morgan, and the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors.

She also headed Chevron's committee on public policy until she resigned on January 15, 2001, to become National Security Advisor. Chevron honored Rice by naming an oil tanker Condoleezza Rice after her, but controversy led to its being renamed Altair Voyager.

Rice has also been active in community affairs. She was a founding board member of the Center for a New Generation, an educational support fund for schools in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, California, and was Vice President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America of the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition, her past board service has encompassed such organizations as the National Council for Soviet and East European Studies, and the Stanford Mid-Peninsula Urban Coalition.

Political career

Early phase

In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

From 1989 through March 1991 (the period of the fall of Berlin Wall and the final days of the Soviet Union), she served in the George H. W. Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, reporting to Brent Scowcroft, and as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In this position, Rice helped develop Bush's and Secretary of State James Baker's policies in favor of German reunification. She impressed Bush, who later introduced her to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as the one who "tells me everything I know about the Soviet Union."

In 1991 Rice returned to her teaching position at Stanford, although she continued to serve as a consultant on the former Soviet Bloc for numerous clients in both the public and private sectors. Late that year, California Governor Pete Wilson appointed her to a bipartisan committee that had been formed to draw new state legislative and congressional districts in the state.

In 1997, she sat on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military.

During George W. Bush's 2000 U.S. Presidential election campaign, Rice took a one-year leave of absence from Stanford to work as his foreign policy advisor. The group she led called itself "The Vulcans" in honor of the statue of the Vulcan of fire and metalworking in her home town.

National Security Advisor (2001–2005)

On December 17, 2000, Rice was picked to serve as National Security Advisor and stepped down from her position at Stanford. She was the first woman to occupy the post. She became one of the most outspoken supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After Iraq delivered its declaration of weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations on December 8, 2002, it was Rice who wrote an editorial for The New York Times entitled Why We Know Iraq Is Lying. In a January 10, 2003 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Rice was generally cautious about characterizing possible Iraqi WMD programs. However, she did say something that was, according to Blitzer, "ominous," and made headlines around the world: "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

In March 2004, Rice initially declined to testify under oath before the 9/11 Commission. The White House claimed executive privilege under constitutional separation of powers and cited past tradition in refusing requests for her public testimony. Under pressure, Bush agreed to allow her to publicly testify so long as it did not create a precedent of Presidential staff being required to appear before United States Congress when so requested. In the end, her appearance before the commission on April 8, 2004, was deemed acceptable in part because she was not actually appearing before Congress. She thus became the first sitting National Security Advisor to testify on matters of policy.

Leading up to the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, Rice became the first National Security Advisor to campaign for an incumbent president. She used this occasion to express her belief that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq contributed to circumstances that produced terrorism like the 9/11 attacks on America. At a Pittsburgh campaign rally she said: "While Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the actual attacks on America, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a part of the Middle East that was festering and unstable, [and] was part of the circumstances that created the problem on September 11".

In 2003, Rice was also drawn into the debate over the affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Michigan. On January 18, 2003, the Washington Post reported that she was involved in crafting Bush's position on race-based preferences. Rice has stated that she believes race "can be a factor" in university admissions policies.

Secretary of State (2005–present)

On November 16, 2004, Bush nominated Rice to become Secretary of State, replacing General Colin Powell, whose resignation was made public the day before. Bush named Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, to replace her as National Security Advisor. On January 7, 2005, Bush nominated U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick to become Rice's deputy at the Department of State. On January 19, 2005, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted by a 16–2 margin to approve the forwarding of Rice's nomination to the full Senate for approval, with Democrats John Kerry and Barbara Boxer voting against Rice. During her hearing, Boxer questioned Rice on issues about her personal life, which was deemed, by some, as irrelevant. On January 26, 2005, the Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 85–13. The negative votes, the most cast against any nomination for Secretary of State since 1825, came from Senators who, according to Boxer, wanted "to hold Dr Rice and the Bush Administration accountable for their failures in Iraq and in the war on terrorism." All negative votes came from Democratic and independent senators.

Rice tosses the coin at the 2005 Alabama/Tennessee game

On October 30, 2005, Rice attended a memorial service in Montgomery for Rosa Parks, a heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. Rice stated, that she and others who grew up in Alabama during the height of Parks' activism might not have realized her impact on their lives at the time, "but I can honestly say that without Mrs. Parks, I probably would not be standing here today as secretary of state."

Major initiatives

Since Rice took office as Secretary of State in January 2005, she has pushed several major initiatives to reform and restructure the department, as well as U.S. diplomacy as a whole. Arguably her most substantial initiative has been dubbed "Transformational Diplomacy," a goal which Rice describes as "work[ing] with our many partners around the world. . .[and] build[ing] and sustain[ing] democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system". Rice's Transformational Diplomacy involves approximately five core elements:

  • Relocating American diplomats to the places in the world where they are needed most.
  • Requiring diplomats to serve some time in "hardship locations," gain expertise in at least two regions, and become fluent in at least two foreign languages.
  • Focusing on regional solutions to problems like terrorism, drug trafficking, and disease.
  • Working with other countries on a bilateral basis to help them build a stronger infrastructure, and decreasing foreign nations' dependence on American hand-outs and assistance.
  • The creation of a high-level position, director of foreign assistance, to oversee U.S. foreign aid, thus de-fragmenting U.S. foreign assistance.

During Rice's introduction of her plan for Transformational Diplomacy, which she delivered at Georgetown University on January 18, 2006, she highlighted the issue of disproportionate numbers of U.S. foreign workers in relation to the population of the country they are serving in. As an example, Rice recounted, "We have nearly the same number of State Department personnel in Germany, a country of 82 million people that we have in India, a country of one billion people." She said that many of the diplomats in comfortable locations, like Europe, would be relocated to countries like India, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Africa, and Lebanon, which she said had become the "new front lines of our diplomacy". She said that this move was needed to help "maintain security, fight poverty, and make democratic reforms" in these countries. Rice asserted that this would help improve foreign nations' legal, economic, healthcare, and educational systems. As for the new foreign language requirements, Rice suggested Chinese, Arabic, and Urdu as several needed languages.

Another aspect of Transformational Diplomacy, as outlined in Rice's speech, is the emphasis on finding regional solutions to various problems, rather than relying on one single official solution to a problem in every circumstance. Rice also pressed for an emphasis on finding transnational solutions as well, stating that "in the 21st century, geographic regions are growing ever more integrated economically, politically and culturally. This creates new opportunities but it also presents new challenges, especially from transnational threats like terrorism and weapons proliferation and drug smuggling and trafficking in persons and disease"

Another aspect of the emphasis on regional solutions is the implementation of small, agile, "rapid-response" teams to tackle problems like disease, instead of the traditional approach of calling on experts in an embassy. Rice explained that this means moving diplomats out of the "back rooms of foreign ministries" and putting more effort into "localizing" the State Department's diplomatic posture in foreign nations. The Secretary emphasized the need for diplomats to move into the largely unreached "bustling new population centers" and to spread out "more widely across countries" in order to become more familiar with local issues and people.

Finally, Rice announced a major restructuring of U.S. foreign assistance, including nominating Randall L. Tobias, an AIDS relief expert, as the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Tobias, who will be elevated to a position equivalent of a deputy secretary of state, has the job of focusing the United States' foreign assistance efforts and defragmenting the many disparate aid offices that exist. State Department officials described the move as necessary to "ensure more effective and focused spending overseas"

Rice says these initiatives are necessary because of the highly "extraordinary time" in which Americans live. She compares the moves to the historic initiatives taken after World War II, which she claims helped stabilize Europe as it is known today. Rice states that her Transformational Diplomacy is not merely about "influencing" or "reporting on" governments, but "changing people's lives" through tackling the issues like AIDS, the education of females, and the defeat of violent extremism.


Rice's policy as Secretary of State views counterterrorism as a matter of being preventative, and not merely punitive. In an interview that took place on December 18, 2005, Rice stated: "We have to remember that in this war on terrorism, we're not talking about criminal activity where you can allow somebody to commit the crime and then you go back and you arrest them and you question them. If they succeed in committing their crime, then hundreds or indeed thousands of people die. That's why you have to prevent, and intelligence is the long pole in the tent in preventing attacks".

Rice has also been a frequent critic of the intelligence community's inability to cooperate and share information, which she believes is an integral part of preventing terrorism. In 2000, a year before the September 11th terrorist attacks, Rice warned during an interview on Detroit radio station WJR: "You really have to get the intelligence agencies better organized to deal with the terrorist threat to the United States itself. One of the problems that we have is a kind of split responsibility, of course, between the CIA and foreign intelligence and the FBI and domestic intelligence." She then added: "There needs to be better cooperation because we don't want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory".

Rice also has promoted the idea that counterterrorism involves not only confronting the governments and organizations that promote and condone terrorism, but also the ideologies that fuel terrorism. In a speech given on July 29, 2005, Rice asserted that "securing America from terrorist attack is more than a matter of law enforcement. We must also confront the ideology of hatred in foreign societies by supporting the universal hope of liberty and the inherent appeal of democracy".

In January 2005, during Bush's second inaugural ceremonies, Rice first used the term "outposts of tyranny" to refer to countries felt to threaten world peace and human rights. This term has been called a descendant of Bush's phrase, "Axis of Evil," used to describe Iraq]], Iran and North Korea. She identified six such "outposts" in which she said the United States has a duty to foster freedom: Cuba, Zimbabwe, Burma and Belarus, as well as Iran and North Korea.

Criticisms and Response

Rice has been criticised for her involvement in the Bush Administration both in the United States and abroad. Protestors have sought to exclude her from appearing at universities such as Princeton and Boston College, (prompting the resignation of an adjunct professor there). There has also been international effort to prevent her from publicly speaking abroad as well as signs of frustration from the members of the gay and lesbian community.

It was also reported that when Hurricane Katrina was hitting New Orleans, Rice attended a Broadway show. African American filmmaker Spike Lee has criticized Rice for this action, stating that, "While people were drowning in New Orleans, she was going up and down Madison Ave. buying Ferragamo shoes. Then she went to see 'Spamalot'".

California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has also criticized Rice in relation to the war in Iraq: "I personally believe -- this is my personal view -- that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth."

She has also been criticised by some members of the African American community. Her lack of commentary on many social issues that affect minorities have led some to brand her a "race traitor." In August 2005, American musician, actor, and social activist Harry Belafonte referred to African Americans in the Bush Administration as 'black tyrants.' Talk show host John Sylvester called Rice an "Aunt Jemima" and Powell an "Uncle Tom". African American commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson called the comments "silly, juvenile, racial cheap shots." However, he did argue that "Rice can be justly criticized for being too hawkish, too fawning toward Bush, too lacking in social or diplomatic graces, and too inexperienced to broker an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and resolve the crisis over Iran and North Korea's nuke threat." Later, Hutchinson demanded an apology from Sylvester for his remarks.

Democrat Mike Espy, the first African American Secretary of Agriculture, who served in President Bill Clinton's administration from 1993-1994, stated that if Rice were to run for elected office, the black community's hearts would be with her. Many other African American Democrats have also come out to support Rice in the face of her opponents' criticisms. Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor, U.S. Congressman, and the first African American Ambassador to the United Nations during the Carter administration, said in January of 2005 that Rice "deserves [their] support," calling her a "strong, wise Secretary of State with a bipartisan mandate". Democrat C. Delores Tucker, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, in 2005 voiced her opinion that Rice is "more qualified to be Secretary of State than possibly 80 percent of the persons that sat in that office" and stated that her friends in the black community "support her" and want to "let her know that we're with her and we don't like what is being done [to her]".

Rice has defended herself from such racial criticisms on several occasions. During a September 14, 2005 interview, she said: "Why would I worry about something like that? . . .[T]he fact of the matter is I've been black all my life. Nobody needs to tell me how to be black."

Preceded by:
Sandy Berger
United States National Security Advisor
Succeeded by:
Stephen Hadley
Preceded by:
Colin Powell
United States Secretary of State
Succeeded by:
Hillary Rodham Clinton

Later career

While in the Bush administration, Rice became one of the most powerful female (and African-American) political figures in U. S. history. For example, in August 2004 and again in August 2005, Forbes magazine named Rice the world's most powerful woman. She was mentioned as a possible opponent of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential election, a prospect that was the subject of the book Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race, by political strategist Dick Morris and his wife, Eileen McGann-Morris.

Rice, for her part, has repeatedly said she has no desire or interest in becoming President. Interviewed on the subject by Tim Russert on March 14, 2005, Rice declared, "I will not run for president of the United States. How is that? I don't know how many ways to say 'no' in this town." In May 2005, several of Rice's associates claimed that she would be willing to run for the presidency if she were drafted into the race. On October 16, 2005, on NBC's Meet the Press, Rice again denied she would run for President in 2008. While she says she is flattered that many people want her to run, she says it is not what she wants to do with her life.

Rice did publicly express aspirations to become commissioner of the National Football League. Following the announcement of Paul Tagliabue's retirement, she was widely believed to be a serious contender for the post, but her duties as Secretary of State made prevented her from pursuing that path.

In 2009 Rice joined the Greystone and Shoal Creek Golf and Country Clubs in Birmingham. She played golf during breaks in research for Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, which focuses on her childhood and lives of her parents and grandparents. In 2013 she was appointed to the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee.

In August 2021 it was announced that Rice would join ABC's highly-ranked daytime talk show "The View" as part of, "a lineup of conservative guest co-hosts."


  • Rice, Condoleezza (1984) Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press ISBN 0691069212
  • Rice, Condoleezza and Alexander Dallin, eds. (1986). The Gorbachev Era. Stanford, California: Stanford University Alumni Association ISBN 0815305710
  • Rice, Condoleezza and Philip D. Zelikow (1995) Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft. Cambridge. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press ISBN 0674353242
  • Rice, Condoleezza (2010) Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. New York, New York: Crown Archetype ISBN 0307587878


External links