This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl--and a young woman--trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world, of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community that made all the difference.
Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist. Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman--and the first black woman ever--to serve as Secretary of State.
But until she was 25 she never learned to swim, because when she was a little girl in Birmingham, Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor decided he'd rather shut down the city's pools than give black citizens access.
Throughout the 1950's, Birmingham's black middle class largely succeeded in insulating their children from the most corrosive effects of racism, providing multiple support systems to ensure the next generation would live better than the last. But by 1963, Birmingham had become an environment where blacks were expected to keep their head down and do what they were told--or face violent consequences. That spring two bombs exploded in Rice’s neighborhood amid a series of chilling Klu Klux Klan attacks. Months later, four young girls lost their lives in a particularly vicious bombing.
So how was Rice able to achieve what she ultimately did?
Her father, John, a minister and educator, instilled a love of sports and politics. Her mother, a teacher, developed Condoleezza’s passion for piano and exposed her to the fine arts. From both, Rice learned the value of faith in the face of hardship and the importance of giving back to the community. Her parents’ fierce unwillingness to set limits propelled her to the venerable halls of Stanford University, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become the university’s second-in-command. An expert in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, she played a leading role in U.S. policy as the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated. Less than a decade later, at the apex of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, she received the exciting news--just shortly before her father’s death--that she would go on to the White House as the first female National Security Advisor.
As comfortable describing lighthearted family moments as she is recalling the poignancy of her mother’s cancer battle and the heady challenge of going toe-to-toe with Soviet leaders, Rice holds nothing back in this remarkably candid telling.
Former secretary of state Rice only briefly treats her tenure during the second Bush administration in favor of a straightforward, reverential chronicle of her upbringing under two teachers in the segregated Deep South. Rice acknowledges upfront the complicated, intertwined history of blacks and whites in America, which lent a lightening of skin to her forebears that was looked upon favorably at the time. Her father, John Wesley Rice Jr., came from a family of well-educated itinerant preachers in Louisiana, while the family of her mother, Angelena Ray, were Birmingham, Ala., landowners; both were teachers at Fairfield Industrial High School and determined to live "full and productive lives" in Birmingham, despite the blight of segregation (e.g., poll tests in the largely Democratic South resolved John Rice to become a lifelong Republican). Cocooned in an educational and musical environment, Rice was a high-achieving only child. Yet the encroaching racial tension broke open in Birmingham in the form of store boycotts, bombings, and demonstrations. Eventually, the family moved to Denver, where Rice attended the university, majoring first in piano then political science, due to the influence of professor and former Czech diplomat Josef Korbel. Rice moves fleetingly through her subsequent education at Notre Dame and Stanford. Swept into Washington Republican politics by Colin Powell and others, she sketches the "wild ride" accompanying the Soviet Union's demise, but overall records a thrilling, inspiring life of achievement.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Witness to History and Legacy
I make serious effort to understand our world through its history and those who were at the podium shaping America. Miss Rice deserves admiration and thanks for her progression through segregation in the Deep South, determination to find educational opportunities, take the wheel when finding herself at the brink of world-change and working in the ranks to see that others had opportunity to benefit from good education. She came from a home as common as my own, was diligent and reached extraordinary success. Play the “race card”? I think not. She employed the “prayer” gambit often and God chose her to be his tool in many different arenas. I would recommend her writing to anyone.
A Remarkable Story
This book should be required reading for every couple raising a daughter as an only child!