Condoleeza Rice's biography to date is a remarkable story of how she got involved in politics and how she got to where she is today, the Secretary of State for the United States and arguably the most powerful woman in the world.
Rice's rise to her current position reflects a love of education that goes back in her family for generations, in spite of the fact that all of her great-grandparents were slaves. She had "house slaves" on both sides of her family, and their positions allowed them to become literate. Condoleeza's grandfather, John Rice, Jr., saved money he made picking cotton to go to college. He became a Presbyterian minister (Herstein, 2004).
Condoleeza Rice was born on November 14, 1954, in Birmingham, Alabama. She lived through considerable turmoil in Birmingham; one of her classmates, Denise McNair, was killed when the Black Sunday School was bombed in Birmingham in 1964 (Norolinger, 1999). She describes her parents as "strategic," (Herstein, 2004), and planned her education so that she would have skills valued by white society and give her as equal a footing as possible.
In 1965, the Rice family moved to Tuscaloosa, where her father became the Dean of Stillman College. This led to another college position as Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Denver when Condoleeza was 13 (Norolinger, 1999). An advanced student, Rice entered the University of Denver at the age of 15.
Rice did not start out interested in politics. Her mother was a musician, and Rice started piano lessons when she was three. Her original plan was to be a concert pianist (Herstein, 2004). However, she realized that she didn't have the extreme level of talent requried for such a career, and looked to see what else interested her (Norolinger, 1999). She decided fo focus on international politics. She was particularly inspired by one of her professors, a Jewish man who had emigrated from Chechoslovakia and the father of Madeleine Albright (Herstein, 2004). .
After graduating from the University of Denver at age 19, she earned a master's at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, drawn to its strong Soviet studies program (Herstein, 2004). She then returned to the University of Denver for a Ph.D. In political science (Herstein, 2004). After she graduated for the second time from the University of DEnver, she accepted a one-year position at Stanford University. She was kept on, and by 1987 was an associate professor (Herstein, 2004).
While at Stanford, Rice met a man who would significantly influence her career: Brent Scowcroft, who became President George Bush's National Security Advisor in 1989. Once he had that position, he contacted Rice and asked her to take a leave of absence from Stanford so she could work with him, which she did for two years. Her knowledge as an expert on the U.S.S.R. was valued by the first Bush administration (Herstein, 2004). She ended up serving under Scowcroft and on the National Security Council, where her expertise was valued. It was a time of great change in Eastern Europe and the Soviet: Germany reunified, Baltic states separated from the U.S.S.R., and the U.S.S.R. itself was on borrowed time (Norolinger, 1999). Rice understood the paradox and the dangers of a great power on the verge of collapse. While greatly weakened, she said, "... It was still exceedingly dangerous, and I think we're very fortunate to have gotten through the Cold War the way we did." (Norolinger, 1999)
Eventually she returned to Stanford, preferring a more quiet, academic life, but Stanford had other ideas. In 1993 she was promoted to Professor and then named Provost, or second in command (Herstein, 2004). While this was a position of great importance, it also took her out of academics and into administration. It was not the return to university life she had envisioned.
Rice already knew George Bush, senior, having worked in his administration. In 1995, Rice met George W. Bush, who was then the governor of Texas. They got along immediately. Bush respected her knowledge regarding foreign policy, and they shared a love of sports (Norolinger, 1999). When he ran for President, he relied on her advice as a foreign policy advisor. When he was elected, he named her National Security Advisor, the position her old mentor, Brent Scowcroft, had held for George W. Bush's father during his presidency (Herstein, 2004).
Rice immediately stood out as an articulate and influential member of Bush's inner circle. She was willing…