By: Victoria Yates
Condoleezza Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama on the 14th of November 1954 the only child of Angelena Ray Rice, and John Wesley Rice Jr. Her parents were both teachers, with her mother teaching music and her father spending much of his life reaching out to disadvantaged youths. The pair encouraged Rice to not only be a good student but indeed to be the best student. They lived in segregated Alabama during the civil rights movement. Whilst her parents didn’t themselves march the streets, they nevertheless fully supported the cause. This helped Rice deal with the limitations on her everyday actions by always feeling that there was nothing she couldn’t do with her life if she applied herself.
And the drive paid off. Rice was an accomplished student who mastered piano at three, managed to skip the first and seventh grade, and began College life at 15 enrolling at the University of Denver. Her initial intention was to pursue a career as a concert pianist. Instead she became interested in politics and international relations, graduating with a major in Political Science after being inspired by Josef Korbel (a teacher and Czech refugee) and Madeleine Albright. It was also around this time that Rice first became interested in the Soviet Union.
After graduation Rice went on to do an MA at Notre Dame and a Ph.D from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver. At the age of only 26 Rice became a fellow at Stanford University’s centre for International Security and Arms control. She continued her links with Stanford becoming, in 1993, the University’s first female, non-white provost - a position she held for six years.
During her time with Stanford, Rice was already beginning her foray into the political world. She served as the Soviet Affairs Adviser on the National Security Council for Bush Senior, aiding the President during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany. She would return to the National Security Council for George W. Bush
Rice was the first woman to occupy the post of National Security Adviser, a job in which she wielded a great deal of influence over early policy development, taking a hard line on Russia, missile defence, and (more controversially) the environment during her time with G. W. Bush.
In 2000, when at a Forum on Foreign Relations at the Republican Convention, she noted: "The first thing is that we need also to change the tone and rhetoric in America's foreign policy. It was a mistake to refer to ourselves as the indispensable nation. That caused considerable resentment. We have to consult and strengthen our relations with our allies, as a first priority,"
Beginning in 2002, Rice became one of the Bush administration's most outspoken supporters of the 2003 war in Iraq, arguing that Saddam Hussein posed a nuclear danger to the world.
In March 2004, Rice was involved in a high-profile controversy over her refusal to publicly testify under oath before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. She eventually gave testimony, but conditions attached were stringent. Rice thus became the first sitting National Security Advisor to testify on matters of policy.
In 2004, Rice succeeded Colin Powell as Secretary of State. In that role, she choose to focus her efforts on ‘Transformational Diplomacy”, or the creation and maintenance of democratic, well-led states around the world, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. As part of this move, Rice oversaw the relocation of American Diplomats to politically challenging countries whilst also enforcing a requirement that they learn (and become fluent in) two foreign languages.
Her emphasis on supporting democratically elected governments faced challenges as the Islamist militant Hamas captured a popular majority in Palestinian elections, and influential countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt maintained authoritarian systems with U.S. support.
One of the most noted aspects of Rice’s career is her Republican affiliation, a political position held by her family but one which she did not initially ascribe to, instead proudly voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976. But apparently his remarks about the Soviet Union began to grate, and she found herself positively attracted to Reagan’s policy agenda.
Since leaving office, Rice has continued to prove herself as a multifaceted person, performing with Aretha Franklin for a benefit, and dedicating her spare time to golfing on Stanford’s fabled course. Since the end of the Bush administration, Rice has returned to Stanford where she is happy to remain as a professor in Political Economy and a fellow of the Hoover Institution.
Rice has been an influential leader whose determination and intellect led her to be only the second woman to serve as Secretary of State and to have held the highest ranked position in a Presidential Cabinet of any black woman.
Although at times her actions within the Bush administration caused controversy, Rice herself emerged with a great deal of admiration from all sides for her principles and intellectual capability.