From The Segrated South To United States Secretary of State: The Inspiring Story of Condoleezza Rice
Image Credits: Ariel Zambelich/NPR
Condoleezza Rice has been an inspiration of mine since I read her book “Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me” in high school. She was the embodiment of a strong conservative woman and she immediately became a role model. I don’t agree with her on every single issue but she is classy, brilliant, and passionate which led her to shoot to the top of my list of favorite conservatives. I feel as if Condoleezza Rice is often overlooked by many young conservatives so I want to share her story with you even though I highly recommend her memoir.
Condoleezza Rice, affectionately known as “Condi,” was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama to John Wesley Rice Jr. and Angelena Rice. John Wesley Rice Jr. was a high school guidance counselor, football coach, dean of students at Stillman College and an ordained Presbyterian minister. Angelena Rice was a science, oratory and music teacher and was the organist at church. Angelena’s passion was music, even naming her daughter Condoleezza which is derived from the Italian music term “con dolcezza” meaning “with sweetness.”
Condoleezza lived up to her name when at the age of 3 she began to study piano, French, Spanish, ballet, and figure skating. She performed well in school, skipping first grade entirely and even leaping from sixth grade to eighth grade. During her childhood though, she was watching her town become the beating heart of the civil rights movement. Condoleezza knew two of the four young girls attending Sunday school who were killed from the firebombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. To say this movement had a profound and intimate impact on young Condoleezza Rice would be an understatement.
In 1967, the Rice family moved to Denver, Colorado, where her dad had accepted a position as a college administrator. She graduated from high school at 15. She immediately enrolled at the University of Denver where her father was serving as assistant dean. Condoleezza entered college wanting to leave a concert pianist but after attending the Aspen Music Festival and School, she doubted her ability to achieve that dream. She went back to school feeling a bit deflated and decided to remain open to the idea of possibly changing her major. She enrolled in an International Politics class that was being taught by Josef Korbel, who Rice says was a central figure in her life, that sparked her interest in foreign policy which led the decision of making political science her major. At just 19 in 1974, Condoleezza graduated cum laude with her B.A. in Political Science. She went on to get her masters degree in political science from Notre Dame and graduated with that degree in 1975 (yes, you did that math correctly. She graduated with her masters in one year).
Rice began working as an intern for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the State Department under the Carter Administration in 1977. Still unsure of what to do as she returned to Denver, Dr. Korbel told her to continue her education. She even studied Russian at the Moscow State University during the summer of 1979. In 1981, she graduated with her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Denver.
From 1981, Condoleezza Rice was appointed as faculty at Stanford University as a political science professor. During this time, specifically in 1982, Condoleezza Rice registered as a Republican; a large part of her switching parties had to do with the foreign policy of Democrats, specifically President Carter. She was promoted to associate professor in 1987 where she remained until 1993 with her specialization on the Soviet Union.
In 1989, Rice became the special assistant to President Bush as Soviet expert on the United States National Security Council. President Bush really paid attention the any information that came from Condoleezza Rice. The President trusted what she had to says, but she resigned from this position 1991.
In 1993, Rice becomes first African-American and first woman to become provost of Stanford University which also made her the youngest provost in the school’s history. Within two years of her becoming provost, she balanced the school’s budget and the school was in a surplus of $14.5 million. But in June of 1999, Rice resigned as provost, but remained a faculty member.
Rice served as George W. Bush’s foreign policy adviser as he ran for president. When George Bush was declared the winner of the 2000 election, Condoleezza Rice was appointed as the National Security Advisor on December 17, 2000. This appointment made her the first woman ever to hold this position.
It was only within a year on September 11, 2001, when she was tested. Condoleezza Rice was making calls from a bunker to foreign leaders that the United States government was still functioning. She was leading from Washington while the President was leading the best he could while on the move. Rice later testified about the details of how 9/11 in 2004 after being subpoenaed.
Condoleezza was a key proponent to the invasion of Iraq. She led the Iraqi Stabilization Group which had four groups within it: counter-terrorism, economic development, political affairs, and media relations all of which included representatives from the CIA and the Departments of State, Treasury, and Defense.
In 2004, Condoleezza Rice is nominated by President George W. Bush for Secretary of State. She is confirmed on January 26, 2005 by a vote in the Senate of 85-13. This made her the first African-American woman to hold the position. As Secretary of State, she traveled to the Middle East to help talk peace plans between Israel and Lebanon after violence erupted between the two. She oversaw a ceasefire agreement between Georgia and Russia in 2008. In that same year, she also became the first Secretary of State to visit Libya where she met with Moammar Gadhafi. She holds the record for most miles traveled in the position due to her many diplomatic efforts.
After leaving the Bush Administration, she has kept busy with the Council on Foreign Relations, her selection to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, her piano playing, and writing books. She expresses her opinion more now than she did when she was working in the Bush administration. It’s refreshing to see such a level-headed conservative woman represent our views with such elegance.
To Condoleezza Rice, thank you for giving me a role model that I could identify with as a woman. You were unwavering during some of America’s toughest times and you showed America that strong women come in all races and genders. You represented our country wonderfully in the eye of adversity and set an example for many young conservative women, such as myself, to follow and look up to. You’ve remained the level-headed kind of conservative that we seem to lacking today and I think everyone could learn someone from you.
Conservative women are a force to be reckoned with and Condoleezza Rice helped break that barrier for us.
FFL Cabinet Member