Dr. Condoleezza Rice was the U.S. Secretary of State in the second term of President George W. Bush. Previously, Rice was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor. She is the second African-American to serve as National Security Advisor and the first woman to hold that office. Rice held the highest position in a presidential cabinet that any black woman has held. Rice describes herself as a moderate Republican, and has never been identified with so-called "black issues", which has led some African-Americans to view her with suspicion.
Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama the only child of Angelena Ray Rice, a high school science, music and oratory teacher, and John Wesley Rice, Jr., a high school guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister. Her unusual first name is derived from the Italian for an opera stage instruction, con dolcezza, meaning "with sweetness". Rice was raised in segregated Birmingham during the civil rights movement. Although Rice was never involved in the civil rights movement, her childhood friend, 11-year-old Denise McNair, was one of the four young girls killed in the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.
According to Rice, "My parents had me absolutely convinced that, while you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth's, you can be President of the United States." As a child she began piano classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. While Rice ultimately did not become a professional pianist, she still practices often and plays with a chamber music group. She accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Brahms's Violin Sonata in D Minor at Constitution Hall in April 2002 for the National Medal of Arts Awards
Excelling as a student Condoleezza Rice skipped both 1st and 7th grade. In 1967, the family moved to Denver, Colorado, where Condoleezza attended St. Mary's Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, graduating in 1971. After studying piano at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Rice enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father was then serving as an assistant dean.
Rice's initial college major was piano, but after realizing she did not have the talent to play professionally, she began to consider an alternative major. She attended an international politics course taught by Josef Korbel, which sparked her interest in the Soviet Union and international relations. Rice later described Korbel, who was the father of Madeleine Albright, as a central figure in her life.
Condoleezza Rice obtained a master's degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1975, and began her political career working in the State Department in 1977, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 1981, at the age of 26, Rice received her Ph.D. in political science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Her dissertation centered on military policy and politics in what was then the communist state of Czechoslovakia.
Rice was a Democrat until 1982 when she changed her political affiliation to Republican in part because she disagreed with the foreign policy of Democratic President Jimmy Carter and because of the influence of her father, who was Republican. As she told the 2000 Republican National Convention, "My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did".
Condoleezza Rice's early career is marked by stunning and rapid advancement. She was hired at Stanford as an assistant professor and soon got tenure. Because of her expertise in the Soviet Union she came to the attention of Brent Scowcroft who hired her on at the National Security Council as an adviser to President Bush where she helped greatly in forming U.S. policy in response to the fall of the Soviet Union and the re-unification of Germany.
After a two year stint at the national Security Council. Condoleezza returned to Stanford, rising to the honor of provost. In 1999, the younger George Bush asked her to help with his presidential campaign where Rice was able to aid in foreign policy matters. When Bush won the election she was appointed his national security adviser, and Bush relied on her advice after the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001.
In recognition of her knowledge and abilities Condoleezza Rice became Secretary of State in George W. Bush's second term. Leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Rice became the first National Security Advisor to campaign for an incumbent president. She stated that 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 11th." As national security advisor and then secretary of State to President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice never displayed any doubt or admitted any errors in the White House decisions that led to war in Iraq.
In 2010 Condoleezza Rice released her autobiographical book "Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family". The book though well written was disappointing to many since it centers on her parents and youth, and ends in 2000, the time when most Americans wanted more details. Rice describes her upbringing as "quite normal," but it clearly wasn't. Gifted and ambitious, she started piano lessons at age 3 and soon was practicing for hours a day. She was "enchanted" by Mozart when her friends adored Elvis. She took ballet, gymnastics and baton twirling, plus private French lessons, and her family, which had front row seats in Birmingham Alabama, seemed to watch the Civil Rights struggle from their front porch without becoming personally involved.
Condoleezza Rice completed three seasons as one of 12 members on the College Football Playoff selection committee. When asked if the committee did its job well she replied "I've been on a lot of committees -- government, corporate, university -- and I've said many times, I think it's the best committee I've ever served on."