Condoleezza changed how people view women; she does not have to look like an Amazon to command respect. Everything about her spells elegance and finesse, yet she knows more about warfare than many men.
Suffice it to say that Condoleezza Rice is not the kind of woman to be messed with. She’s known for her no-nonsense personality, and is the exact opposite of how the world stereotyped women as weak, emotional and clueless about war. Because of that, Condoleezza changed the course of history forever by proving the world wrong and building her career with sheer intellect.
STANFORD’S FIRST WOMAN PROVOST
She was a very bright student. Graduating college with cum laude distinction, she easily landed a career in teaching. As a professor at Stanford [among many other Ivy League institutions], she earned the respect of her students and colleagues for her strong personality. She quickly rose through the ranks and was soon made the first woman “Provost.”
As Provost, she was in charge of the university’s budget, which was suffering from a 20 million-dollar deficit. It was daunting enough to make do with the existing funding, but even harder to address the deficit. As Condoleezza never runs away from challenges, she took on the responsibility and successfully turned the deficit into a surplus of 14.5 million dollars.
Gerhard Casper, then-President of Stanford University, could not have been luckier to have such a driven woman join his team. Being Provost made Condoleezza second-in-command at Stanford. Unlike other women, Condoleezza had no time for drama, and fired people whenever necessary.
EARLY LIFE IN ALABAMA
Condoleezza is lucky to have had such responsible and doting parents. Her father, John Rice, was the son of a Presbyterian minister and eventually became a preacher himself. As such, Condoleezza grew up heavily influenced by the Protestant faith. Her mother, Angelena Rice, was a teacher of English, science and music.
Her father badly wanted a son; he was a sucker for football and intently looked forward to teaching his child everything he knew about the sport. When Angelena gave birth to Condoleezza on November 14th, 1954, John was slightly disappointed, but just as happy to have a healthy daughter. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, where she grew up surrounded by fellow African-Americans.
THE STORY BEHIND HER NAME
Her name has an interesting backstory: Angelena wanted a name that had something to do with music, being a classical music enthusiast herself. When her daughter was born, she intended to name her after the Italian musical term “condol cezza,” which means “with sweetness” in English. Because “condol cezza” was not easy to pronounce, Angelena and John settled for its nearest derivative: “Condoleezza.”
A BALLET DANCER, PIANIST AND FIGURE-SKATER
Condoleezza was a curious kid. She had an aptitude for just about anything, from music and language to dance and academe. Due to ubiquitous racial discrimination, Condoleezza’s parents nurtured every talent their daughter displayed; she had to be best at what she did so she could earn her due respect as an accomplished human being. Because both John and Angelena were employed, they lived decent, comfortable lives.
Condoleezza took after her mother and became interested in music at only three years old. She was particularly taken by playing the piano. Her parents, seeing her tremendous interest, saved up a year’s salary with loans from friends to afford an upright baby grand piano. The piano became Condoleezza’s constant companion.
When the 1960s began, John and Angelena began taking courses at Denver University, and brought their daughter with them every summer. While they were in class, they would leave Condoleezza in the skating rink of the university, where she learned how to figure-skate.
At five years old, Condoleezza was already a fast reader. Her mother was a great tutor; John and Angelena always told their young daughter to persevere and work hard to prove herself to the world. They knew the kind of future that awaited their daughter. It pained them to imagine how she would survive in this mean world when she became old enough to start living away from their protection.
Her childhood years were spent in a world entirely detached from society’s branding. Her parents did their best to prepare Condoleezza to face the ruthless world; she had to excel, or else she would get trampled-upon.
PERSONAL STRUGGLES WITH RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
She attended a grammar school in Titusville, Alabama, beginning in 1961. Condoleezza would have her first glimpse of the kind of violent world she lived in on September 15th, 1963: it was a Sunday and, as the minister’s daughter, she played the piano during the church service. She still clearly remembers hearing the loud blast. The Sunday school at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, just a few blocks away from her father’s church, was bombed. It resulted in four fatalities, including her close friend and playmate, Denise McNair.
She had no idea of the world’s cruelness until that bombing killed someone close to her. The attack was said to have been initiated by members of a white supremacist group. Years later, Condoleezza has yet to get over the deaths of those innocent kids.
Perhaps it was that kind of world which shaped Condoleezza’s stand on terrorism and firearms. No matter how hard her parents tried to make the world seem less threatening to their only child, the chaos around her could not hide the violence and ill-treatment her people experienced at the hands of ruthless racial supremacists.
In 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act became law, she went to a restaurant with her mother to order to-go hamburgers. The people in the restaurant stared at them; while in the car on their way home, Condoleezza ate her hamburger only to find out there was no burger patty in it. The hamburger had nothing but onions between the bread.
The family left Birmingham after John was appointed Assistant Dean of the University of Denver in 1968. Condoleezza was 14 when the family left their hometown. Living in Denver exposed Condoleezza to a new, integrated society composed of both black and white people. She attended high school at St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic school for girls.
CHANGING HER MIND ABOUT BEING A PIANIST
She graduated high school in 1971 – she was supposed to graduate two years earlier, but delayed it so she could graduate with her classmates. When asked by Oprah what that meant to her, Condoleezza replied:
"The truth is that I was a terrible procrastinator, so a lot of times I wasn't all that well prepared. I don't ever remember thinking I was an exceptional student. I did think I was a good pianist."
It was that thought which convinced her to take a course in music when it was time for her to go to college. She attended the Aspen Music Festival and, confident of her skills, she prepared herself for a career in the arts.
At the Aspen Music Festival, Condoleezza rubbed elbows with other talented kids. It was there where she had an epiphany: she was not going to be a pianist because the pieces she had known for the longest time were no trouble for kids who were much younger than her.
She told Oprah in an interview:
"I thought I was going to be a pianist until I went to a music festival camp and met kids who could play from sight what it had taken me all year to learn. I thought, "Murdering Beethoven—that's what I'm going to end up teaching 13-year-olds." Technically, I can play most anything. But I'll never play it the way the truly great pianists do…"
At least Condoleezza realized this early enough to change majors. Considering following in her mother’s footsteps, she enrolled in English Literature classes, but the lessons did not interest her enough. She then shifted to government administration, but still had a nagging feeling that she had yet to find the course that was best for her.
MEETING MADELINE ALBRIGHT’S FATHER, JOSEF KORBEL
She stumbled upon a course offered by Josef Korbel in international politics. It was like a homecoming for Condoleezza. Prof. Josef Korbel would play a big part in her life as her mentor; interestingly, he was the father of Madeline Albright, who would later become the U.S. Secretary of State.
Condoleezza was mesmerized by anything related to the Soviet Union. In 1974, Condoleezza earned her degree in Political Science at the University of Denver; she would later pursue her Master's degree in International Relations and Economics and graduate from the University of Notre Dame in 1975.
ALMOST HAVING A HUSBAND
While at Notre Dame, she dated the university’s fullback of the football team, Wayne Bulloch. When she broke up with Wayne and went back to live with her parents in Denver, she dated Rick Upchurch, a punt returner for the Denver Broncos. It was her most serious relationship; the two got engaged, but never made it to the wedding.
They broke up, and that was the last of Condoleezza’s romantic affiliations. She then served as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs during Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1977.
DEVELOPING A LOVE FOR RUSSIA
She received a pre-doctorate scholarship, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Before beginning her Doctorate degree, she flew to Russia to learn how to speak the Russian language at Moscow State University. She spent the whole summer there, and eventually became a fluent Russian speaker.
After her trip to Russia, Condoleezza continued her studies and earned her Doctorate degree in Political Science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Her dissertation focused on military policy and politics in Czechoslovakia. She completed her Doctorate in 1981 at the age of 26.
Shortly after earning her degree, Condoleezza joined the faculty of Stanford University as an Assistant Professor in 1981. She became a formidable figure at Stanford, especially when it came to matters related to the Soviet Union and other international policies. In fact, she received a few teaching awards and was then offered a fellowship at the Hoover Institution.
FROM DEMOCRAT TO REPUBLICAN
Condoleezza has been a Democrat for as long as she can remember. She became a Republican in 1982 after losing confidence in Jimmy Carter’s brand of politics. It is also believed that her father, who was himself a Republican, convinced her to switch parties.
Her mother, Angelena, died of breast cancer in 1985; John eventually remarried a woman named Rita.
In only six years’ time, Condoleezza became an Associate Professor at Stanford University. It was during a talk about arms control at Stanford University when Condoleezza met Brent Scowcroft. As someone who served as National Security Advisor during Gerald Ford’s term, Brent’s attention was drawn to the brilliant Condoleezza.
In 1989, Brent was appointed by the newly-elected George H. W. Bush to become his National Security Advisor. He then asked Condoleezza to join his team as his Soviet resource person in the United States National Security Council. That began the legendary political career of the woman who used to dream of becoming a professional pianist.
As expected, President Bush Sr. was as impressed as Brent with Condoleezza’s knowledge of the Soviet Union. Her expertise in this area made the incumbent President rely heavily on her, and she amazed everyone with her profound understanding of the Soviet Union. When it finally collapsed in 1991, she was the President’s go-to person in terms of creating policies to help unify the European countries.
She resumed teaching at Stanford in 1991. In 1992, she started getting involved with private corporations, such as Chevron, Transamerica Corporation and Hewlett-Packard as a member of their boards.
ACHIEVEMENTS AS STANFORD PROVOST
Also in 1992, her career in the academe took a surprising turn. Then-President of Stanford Donald Kennedy needed a replacement, and so the university formed a search committee which included Condoleezza. It was then decided that Gerhard Casper would take over. Gerhard appointed Condoleezza to become Stanford University’s Provost, meaning she would oversee the school’s budgeting and function as Gerhard’s second-in-command.
Condoleezza would speak of that responsibility as the hardest job she ever had – even harder than speaking with Russian leaders and creating international policies. What made it a particularly-daunting task was the budget deficit of 20 million dollars. Condoleezza promised to turn the tables around; being the first African-American female Provost, all eyes were on her. While holding Stanford’s Provost position, she had to get rid of unnecessary expenses, which meant axing people who were no longer needed.
Two years after she was appointed Provost, Stanford’s 20-million-dollar deficit was entirely eradicated and turned into a surplus of 14.5 million dollars.
BECOMING BUSH’S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR AND SECRETARY OF STATE
She joined the state staff again in 1997 as part of the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military.
She would again become more involved in politics when George W. Bush decided to run for President in 2000. George H. W. Bush introduced Condoleezza to his son in 1999 because the younger Bush wanted to learn more about international policies. Like his father, George W. Bush was impressed by how much a Stanford Provost knew about foreign policy.
During the campaign period, John had a severe heart attack which put him in a coma. The doctors said that his was a hopeless case, and they had to take him off life-support. Rita refused and, incredibly, John recovered to see his daughter become the National Security Advisor.
When George W. Bush won the Presidency in 2000, he appointed Condoleezza as his National Security Advisor. The following year, when the Twin Towers were attacked, Condoleezza was put in the spotlight. She promptly went into action to ensure that the United States will never be vulnerable to acts of terrorism ever again.
In 2004, Condoleezza was nominated by President Bush to serve as Secretary of State. With more power and authority in her hands, Condoleezza began her work in expanding democratic governments. In order to avoid acts of terrorism, Condoleezza wanted other nations to have access to freer forms of government.
She became a White House celebrity, earning enough popularity to be considered by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world not once, but four times. She was also twice named by Forbes Magazine as the “Most Powerful Woman in the World,” in 2004 and 2005.
“NO HIGHER HONOR: A MEMOIR OF MY YEARS IN WASHINGTON” AND “EXTRAORDINARY, ORDINARY PEOPLE: A MEMOIR OF FAMILY”
Aside from creating policies on a global scale, Condoleezza has also published two memoirs. The first was “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family,” in which she wrote about her childhood, family and upbringing. The second memoir was about her life as a presidential staff member during the Bush (W.) administration.
RETURNING TO STANFORD
She returned to teaching at Stanford in 2009 and, one year later, became the Director of the Graduate School of Business. Despite having many detractors who questioned her policies and approach to addressing terrorism, Condoleezza was awarded the “Thomas D. White National Defense Award” in 2009.
Condoleezza never really stopped playing the piano; although not a professional, she played alongside Yo-Yo Ma in 2002. Now back at the academe, she also likes to play golf in her free time. She’s currently one of the two black members of the Augusta National Golf Club.
When asked by Oprah if she has any intention of running for office, she humorously replied:
"I think I'll be NFL commissioner."
A CAMEO IN “30 ROCK”
Here is a video showing Condoleezza acting opposite Alec Baldwin in the eighth episode of “30 Rock,” titled “The Break-Up.” Condoleezza had a few short minutes of screen time to play the ex-girlfriend of Jack Donaghy, Alec Baldwin's character.
RELATION TO SUSAN RICE
They have the same last name and also held the same National Security Advisor position, but Susan and Condoleezza are not blood-related. Susan's designation as the National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama was brought about by Tom Donilon's resignation. Susan was a U.N. ambassador, and served as National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Clinton's second term, according to Wikipedia. Her appointment led to erroneous speculations that she was related to Condoleezza Rice.
After all she has achieved, Condoleezza doesn’t take herself seriously. National Security is, of course, a much different story as far as she is concerned.
Organizations and Campaigns Supported
- Millennium Challenge Corporation
- Republican Party
- Transamerica Corporation
- Pulmonary Hypertension Association
- Kennedy Center
- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
- Carnegie Corporation
- Charles Schwab Corporation
- Center for New Generation
- The Vulcans
- Augusta National Golf Club
- ABC News
- 1974: Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa
- 1974: Awarded B.A. cum laude in Political Science at Denver University
- 1975: Completed her Master's Degree in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame
- 1977: Worked in the State Department as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- 1979: Studied Russian at Moscow State University and worked as an intern at Research and Development (RAND) Corporation
- 1981: Completed her Doctorate Degree in Political Science at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver
- 1980-1981: Became a fellow in the Arms Control and Disarmament Program at Stanford University
- 1981-1987: Became an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University
- 1982: Became a Republican
- 1986: Served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- 1987-1993: Promoted to Associate Professor at Stanford University
- 1989-1991: Served as Senior Director of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council
- 1989: Served as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- 1991: Joined Transamerica Corporation as a Board Member
- 1992: Joined Hewlett-Packard as a Board Member and founded the “Center for New Generation”
- 1992: Volunteered to join a search committee
- 1993-1999: Taught Political Science at Stanford University
- 1993: Honored by Chevron by naming one of their super-tankers “SS Condoleezza Rice” (later renamed “Altair Voyager”)
- 1993: Appointed as Stanford's Provost (first female to hold the position)
- 1997: Federal Advisory Committee member on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military
- 2000: Spoke at the Republican National Convention and named National Security Advisor to President Bush
- 2002: Played with Yo-Yo Ma at the National Medal of Arts Awards
- 2004: Nominated by President Bush to become Secretary of State
- 2004: First Secretary of State to testify on foreign policy
- 2004 and 2005: Named “Most Powerful Woman in the World” by Forbes
- 2006: Number 2 of the “Most Powerful Women in the World” list by Forbes
- 2009: Returned to teaching at Stanford
- 2009: Became Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy in Hoover Institution
- 2010: Taught at Stanford Graduate School of Business and became Director of Stanford Graduate School of Business
- 2010: Recipient of the “Thomas D. White National Defense Award”
- 2012: Became a Fellow of the Graduate School of Business as Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy
- 2012: One of two black members of the Augusta National Golf Club
- Appeared four times on the “100 Most Influential People” list by Time Magazine