In the aftermath of the victory of the first African American president of the United States, one can seem to want to ponder the depth and height by which the African American sector in the country has risen from - Condoleeza Rice introduction. From being slaves that became one of the reasons a war was fought that threatened to split a county in half, to the objects of heinous attacks all because of their color, objects of ridicule and derogatory remarks. But lest we celebrate the rise of the African American in almost every aspect of American society, we must not forget that there were other African Americans who rose to the higher echelons and walked the halls of power before Barack Obama moved from Illinois to 1 Pennsylvania Avenue. One of them was a female African American, Dr. Condoleeza Rice.
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Humble beginnings to greatness
Condoleeza Rice was born in a time when the biggest issue then was not about the threat of terrorists invading the United States. It wasn’t about the financial crisis either. Rice was born when the issue was that people of a different color were not treated as citizens but as refuse (Gary Donaldson p.344). Rice was born in the American heartland, in Birmingham, Alabama on the 14th of November 1954 (Source Watch). In this time period in American chronology, men and women of color were banned from being seen, let alone sit, with the white folk in the eating establishments (Donaldson, 344). This was the reality in which the life of the future Secretary of State revolved, one in which the aspirations to reach the colored individual could not hope to reach the pinnacles of power (Donaldson, 344).
Dr. Rice claims that the segregation pervading through the times she was growing up had helped her cultivate the trait of being determined and focused in spite of strong opposition (Source Watch). At this time, she had realized that she needed to exert twice the effort to do well; the first exertion was to match up to the white individuals in the society, the next was to overtake them (Source Watch). Rice’s parents would tell her that the attainment of an education was going to be the key for her success than any other factor (Donaldson, 344). Her parents had taught her that the education she would gain would be her defense against the racism and segregation in their society (Ben Wright).
Taking her parent’s advice to heart, Rice then found ways to get her into college, enrolling at the University of Denver by the time she was only 15 years old (Wright). She graduated with a degree in political science cum laude in her class and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Sorority of the school at 19 years of age (Source Watch). She earned her Master’s degree at the Notre Dame University in 1975, followed by her doctorate in 1981 at the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver (Source Watch). At Denver, she was influenced by Professor Josef Korbel to study international relations with a particular interest in the Soviet Union (Donaldson, 344). Korbel is the father of Madeline Albright, a former Secretary of State and United Nations envoy (Donaldson, 344).
In another twist of fate, Rice, at twenty six years old, had finished her doctorate studies in the school that was founded by Korbel himself (Donaldson, 344). Later on, Rice became a fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University (Donaldson, 344). After her stint at Stanford, she served on the National Security Council as the consultant for the Soviet Union internal affairs (Donaldson, 344). When her term ended at the National Security Council, she headed back to Stanford to become the youngest, first female and youngest person to gain the position of provost at the prestigious school After which she served on the National Security Council as the consultant for the Soviet Union internal affairs (Donaldson, 344).
At Stanford, Rice was given a tenure track position in the academe of the university (Jacqueline Edmondson, 36). In Stanford, professors usually have to spend at least six years to be awarded tenure in the school (Edmondson, 36). Rice had been at the University for only three years (Edmondson, 36). At her stay at the Center for Arms Control, she became a fellow at the respected Hoover Institution (Edmondson, 36). The facility, named after former President Herbert Hoover, researches on concerns of war, revolt and peace issues (Edmondson, 36).
In her fellowship stay at the Hoover institution, she and Dr. Alexander Dallin co- edited a book, The Gorbachev Era (Edmondson, 36). Released in 1986, the book offers students on the issues that concerned the Soviet Union, amidst change and crises (Edmondson, 36). By 1987, Rice was already given an associate professor position with tenure (Edmondson, 37). At the age of 38, Rice was awarded full professorship status at the University (Edmondson, 37). This is in recognition of the contribution of the individual in his/her field of instruction (Edmondson, 37).
It is also given as a confirmation of the expertise of that person in their field (Edmondson, 37). That same year, Rice received another teaching prize, the school’s Award for Distinguished Teaching (Edmondson, 37). Included in the award is prize money worth $ 5,000 and an increase in her salary in the amount of $1,000 (Edmondson, 37).
Away from the maddening crowd
To say that her responsibilities at the school took her away from endeavoring in other activities would be the farthest from the truth (Edmondson, 39). She engaged in many community programs and spent some considerable time in the fields of music and sports, particularly football (Edmondson, 39). In remembrance of her parents, she also took the tack of committing a large amount of her efforts to the youth in the community (Edmondson, 39). She initiated various programs that will abet the youth entering into college life and to prepare them for the new challenges ahead (Edmondson, 39).
One of these programs was to enable minority students in their college life and in their places of employment (Edmondson, 39). In 1990, Rice set up the Center for a New Generation (Edmondson, 39). This support group based in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, caters to children in the third grade through the eight grades who are students where the second wife of Rice’s father, Clara, served as the principal (Edmondson, 39). The support system functions as an after school system that teach students in the languages, sciences, computers, performing arts and in math issues (Edmondson, 39).
Rice had a penchant for the kitchen (Edmondson, 40). She usually enjoys cooking up traditional American fare, such as Southern cuisine, fried chicken dishes, and seafood gumbo (Edmondson, 40). Another past time for the future Secretary of State is shopping, which she often does in the company of her friends (Edmondson, 40). Once, she and her friend Deborah Carson went on one shopping trip to the famous Union Square and bought eight pairs of high priced Ferragamo shoes (Edmondson, 40).
Introduction to the big leagues
In her tenure as a Stanford professor, Rice had the opportunity to acquire the knowledge about foreign policy (Edmondson, 40). In 1984, her friend, Coit Blacker, introduced her to Colorado Senator and twice presidential candidate Gary Hart (Edmondson, 40). In their short meeting, Rice offered Hart some advice on the workings of foreign policy (Edmondson, 40). Years later, the two would cross paths once again, as Hart sought out the advice of Rice on the eventuality of terrorist attacks on the United States (Edmondson, 41).
In her stay at Stanford, she was able to lend her knowledge to the government on matters relating to foreign policy (Edmondson, 41). She was offered a year’s stay as a fellow at the strategic Council of Foreign Reltions (Edmondson, 41). This privilege is only given to 20 members of the academe once a year, which Rice gained one of the slots (Edmondson, 41). In her stay at the Council, she honed her knowledge on matters of international relations, particularly the standing of the United States with the international community and to communist states (Edmondson, 41).
Her work at the Council was just a foretaste of the real workings of the foreign policy agenda of the United States (Edmondson, 41). Her exposure into the workings of the Council gave her valuable insights into the system and mechanism of the Pentagon, the armed forces, and more importantly, the relations of the Reagan administration with the Soviet Union (Edmondson, 41). In particular, she gained the overview of the policy of the Reagan government towards the issue of nuclear weapons systems (Edmondson, 41).
Reagan had envisioned a nuclear weapon free society (Edmondson, 41). But in reality, the arms race was heating up at an increasing rate (Edmondson, 41).
The Star Wars program, or more commonly known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, was a top agenda in the Reagan administration (Edmondson, 41). Reagan intended to use the program as a shield against missile attacks against the United States (Edmondson, 41). Then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met with Reagan at Reykjavik, Iceland on the 16th of October, 1986, to discuss matters regarding medium range missiles on the European continent (Edmondson, 41). After the initial talks, the Soviet Union began to initiate moves that would deregulate the internal affairs of the countries under the Soviet-backed Warsaw Pact (Edmondson, 41).
Hence was born the Sinatra Doctrine in international affairs (Edmondson, 42). Many of the countries in the Soviet bloc revolted and went their own separate paths or ways, in reference to the popular Sinatra tune (Edmondson, 42). That time in history was most beneficial to Rice, since she saw then unfolding of the events as they unraveled (Edmondson, 42). Her stay in Washington was merely a taste of the things that she will do in her stay at the nation’s capital, a long held dream of the lady (Edmondson, 42).
In 1985, Rice attended a seminar given by Brent Scowcroft at Stanford (Edmondson, 43). Scowcroft remembers the girl asking the hard inquires and had an aura of confidence around her (Edmondson, 43). After the seminar, Scowcroft invited Rice to attend foreign policy meets conducted at the Aspen Institute (Edmondson, 43). At the Institute, Rice would join up with her future colleagues in the Bush administration (Edmondson, 43).
Among the personalities at the Institute, where Scowcroft was the Director, were future Bush officials Richard Cheney, future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Philip Zelikow (Edmondson, 43). These men were her colleagues as they served in the Cabinets of two Bush presidents, George W. Bush and the son George H.W. Bush (Edmondson, 43). When her year ended in Washington as a fellow of the Foreign Relations Council, Rice headed back to Stanford (Edmondson, 43). Here she went about her position as an associate professor at the university (Edmondson, 43).
When Rice returned to the university, she first gave a series of speeches and talks to a wide audience that reached across the United States (Edmondson, 44). With this, she was slowly being recognized by many policy managers and members of the academe (Edmondson, 44). Scowcroft, remembering the girl from Stanford, offered Rice to work as an analyst for the United States government on Soviet issues (Edmondson, 44).
In 1989, Rice served first as the Director, and then as Senior Director, of the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration for Soviet and East European Security Council, and then as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Source Watch). In the second term of President George W. Bush, Dr. Condoleezza Rice was named as the Secretary of State of the United States of America (Source Watch). For a time, Rice was being considered as a potential Presidential candidate, before the talk of Barack Obama being the first African American president or Hillary Rodham Clinton being the first female president of the United States (Helene Cooper, 2007).
In her final days in office, Rice has seen much of what she has accomplished blemished by decisions in the Bush administration concerning the Iraq conflict and the intrigues between Rumsfeld and then Secretary of State Colin Powell (Cooper, 2007). Even her rumored decision to move back into the faculty of her alumni at Stanford is being met with such stiff resistance from the alumni themselves (Cooper, 2007). But many still regard Rice as one of the best Secretary of State’s that have served the United States, even better than she was National Security Adviser (Cooper, 2007). But after all these concerns, she is still hopeful that she can get back into the classroom at Stanford, teaching students (Cooper, 2007).
Edmondson, Jacqueline. Condoleezza Rice. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.
Cooper, Helene. “As Her Star Wanes, Rice tries to reshape legacy”. New York Times (United States). 1 September, 2007.
Donaldson, Gary. Modern America: A Documentary History of the Nation since 1945. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2007.
Source Watch. “Condoleeza Rice”.
Wright, Ben. “Profile: Condoleeza Rice”.