In My Opinion…

January 1, 2007

Condoleezza Rice: American Woman

Filed under: Politics — Thomas Hagen @ 7:33 am

As an African-American woman born in the segregated south, Condoleezza Rice has overcome many adversities on her way to becoming the most powerful and influential female in the history of the United States. First, her religious upbringing instilled in her very positive values. Second, her education has given her the knowledge to succeed in her many endeavors. Finally, her experiences in political and organizational leadership have taken her to the heights of an often male-dominated world. Dr. Rice has combined these characteristics to become an individual of which Americans can be proud. She is, without a doubt, an asset to the U.S. Based on all of her accomplishments, Condoleezza Rice is a shining example for the American people.

Condoleezza was born in Birmingham, Alabama on November 14, 1954. Her father was the minister of a local Presbyterian church. Her mother was the church piano and organ player, as well as a teacher at an elementary school. Both parents gave her the belief that by maintaining focus and discipline, a person can achieve any possibility in life. Condi, as she is often referred to as, was sheltered from the segregation of Birmingham by a close-knit, middle-class black community. They managed to ignore the racism around them. (Felix 36-7).

Condi’s education would begin at home. She learned to read at a very young age, and as a result, her mother wanted her to begin school early. When the principal of the local elementary school said she was too young to begin her education, her mother took a leave of absence from teaching and gave Condi home schooling. She became so advanced that she was allowed to skip the first grade. Later, she would be allowed to skip the seventh grade, as well (Felix 39).

By age ten, Condoleezza was on her way to becoming a piano prodigy. She had already been playing for seven years, and it was time to take her music to the next level. She was enrolled in the Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music as its first black student. The school had been recently integrated, and Condi’s enrollment would be its first test of that system. There, Condi was able to refine her piano skills, and was also exposed to the basics of the flute and violin. Music appreciation continues to be a large focus of her life (Felix 42-3).

In 1969, the Rice family moved to Denver, Colorado. The racism and segregation of the South was replaced by acceptance in Denver. Condi attended St. Mary’s Academy, a private Catholic school, where she graduated in 1971. At that time, she was simultaneously attending the University of Denver, working on a Bachelor’s Degree in an undecided major. Condi also found the time to enter, and win, a young artist’s competition, allowing her to perform Mozart with the Denver Symphony Orchestra (Felix 60-9).

Condi continued to search for a major course of study in Denver, until the day she walked into a course named “Introduction to International Politics.” Her interest was instantly sparked, and she found herself wanting to know all she could about Russian and Soviet affairs. Her professor, a former European diplomat, was impressed by Condi’s passion of the subject and encouraged her to join the university’s school of international relations that he had founded. Condoleezza Rice now knew what she wanted to do with her life. She graduated with honors from the University of Denver with a B.A. in Political Science, and was named Outstanding Senior Woman by the university (Felix 74-84).

Condi went on to do her graduate work at Notre Dame University, and her interest in Russian and Soviet affairs followed her there. While at Notre Dame she studied Russian and Soviet history, as well as further studies in the Russian language. Their Department of Government and International Studies eventually created a specialized program for Condi that combined her regular courses with independent studies. She left Notre Dame with an M.A. in government in 1975 (Felix 89-97).

After graduating from Notre Dame, Condi returned to Denver. She enrolled in the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies in hopes of pinpointing a direction to take her career. Condi remained focused. She soon realized that political science continued to be her field of interest, and enrolled in their Ph.D. program. Condoleezza Rice became Dr. Rice on August 14, 1981, receiving a Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Denver (Felix 97-111).

At the age of twenty-six, Condoleezza was awarded a post-doctorate fellowship at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Arms Control. As a Soviet researcher, she was associated with policymakers, business people, security specialists, and other experts to study issues of international security. Condi made such a strong impression that she was asked to join the faculty. She began the following semester as an assistant professor of political science. At that time, she was the only African-American on the faculty at Stanford (Felix 115-6).

Condi found much success at Stanford. In 1984 she was awarded the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 1993, she received the School of Humanities and Sciences Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. While at Stanford, she also became a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Fellow of the Hoover Institution. She was eventually asked to be the Provost at Stanford, putting her in charge of the academic programs, and a $1.5 billion budget (White House). She was the youngest person, and first woman, black or white, to hold that position (Source Watch).

In 1986, Ms. Rice went to Washington. First, she served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then, from 1989 to 1991, she served in the Bush Administration as Director, then Senior Director of Soviet and East Europe Affairs, in the National Security Council. By 2001, Condi was appointed Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the position commonly referred to as National Security Advisor. She is the only woman, of any race, to have held that office. In 2005, Condoleezza Rice was named the United States Secretary of State (Department of State).

Condi has served on the boards of several companies and organizations. She has sat on the board of the Chevron Corporation, the Charles Schwab Corporation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the University of Notre Dame, the International Advisory Council of J.P. Morgan, and the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors. She is the founder of the Center for a New Generation, and has been the Vice President of the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula. Her other board seats have included the Transamerica Corporation, Hewlett Packard, the Carnegie Corporation, the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, the Rand Corporation, the National Council for Soviet and East European Studies, and public broadcasting for the city of San Francisco (Department of State).

Dr. Rice has written and edited several books and articles. Her experience and education have made her words invaluable in the area of Soviet and Eastern Europe affairs. Condi’s published works include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft, The Gorbachev Era, and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army. Many of her articles have appeared in the Washington Post and Foreign Affairs magazine (Source Watch). Her words carry weight, and many important and powerful people care what she has to say.

Condoleezza Rice has worked her way to the top of international politics, and has reached that pinnacle on her own terms. The style, and intelligence, and experience she brings to the field are invaluable to the United States. Forbes magazine has named her the 2005 World’s Most Powerful Woman (Serafin). We should be proud to have such an individual representing our country in today’s world. This American woman is truly an example for all Americans.

Works Cited

Department of State. “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice” U.S. Department of State. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/41252.htm&gt;.

Felix, Antonia. Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story. New York: Newmarket Press, 2002.

Serafin, Tatiana. “Condoleezza Rice, The Most Powerful Women.” Forbes.com. <http://www.forbes.com/lists/2005/11/MTNG.html&gt;.

Source Watch. “Condoleezza Rice” Source Watch. <http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Condoleezza_Rice&gt;.

White House. “Biography of Condoleezza Rice” The White House. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/ricebio.html&gt;.

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