Condoleezza Rice (born November 14, 1954) is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American (after Colin Powell), and the second woman (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position. Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.
Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama the only child of Angelena Ray Rice, a high school science, music and oratory teacher, and John Wesley Rice, Jr., a high school guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister. Her name, Condoleezza, derives from the music-related term, con dolcezza, which in Italian means, “with sweetness”. The family had roots in the American South going back to the pre-Civil War era, and worked as sharecroppers for a time after emancipation. Rice grew up in the Titusville neighborhood at a time when the South was racially segregated.
Rice began to learn French, music, figure skating and ballet at the age of three. At the age of fifteen, she began piano classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. While Rice ultimately did not become a professional pianist, she still practices often and plays with a chamber music group. She accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Brahms’s Violin Sonata in D Minor at Constitution Hall in April 2002 for the National Medal of Arts Awards.
In 1967, the family moved to Denver, Colorado. She attended St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, graduating in 1971. After studying piano at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Rice enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father was then serving as an assistant dean.
In 1974, at age 19, Rice was inducted into the honor society Phi Beta Kappa, and was awarded a B.A., cum laude, in political science by the University of Denver. While at the University of Denver she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, Gamma Delta chapter. She obtained a master’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1975. She first worked in the State Department in 1977, during the Carter administration, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 1981, at the age of 26, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Her dissertation centered on military policy and politics in what was then the communist state of Czechoslovakia.
At a 1985 meeting of arms control experts at Stanford, Rice’s performance drew the attention of Brent Scowcroft, who had served as National Security Advisor under Gerald Ford. With the election of George H. W. Bush, Scowcroft returned to the White House as National Security Adviser in 1989, and he asked Rice to become his Soviet expert on the United States National Security Council. According to R. Nicholas Burns, President Bush was “captivated” by Rice, and relied heavily on her advice in his dealings with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.
Following her confirmation as Secretary of State, Rice pioneered the policy of Transformational Diplomacy, with a focus on democracy in the Greater Middle East. Her emphasis on supporting democratically elected governments faced challenges as Hamas captured a popular majority in Palestinian elections, and influential countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt maintained authoritarian systems with U.S. support. While Secretary of State, she chaired the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s board of directors.
In March 2009, Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. In September 2010, Rice became a faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy