Friday, May 11, 2007

Condiology 101

The Cultivation of Condi

HISTORY MAKER-In every facet of her life (her schooling, her tenure at Stanford, her political service) Condoleezza Rice, our 66th Secretary of State, has stood out. The guidance of proud, progressive parents has taken the Birmingham, Alabama native very far.

A Limelight Exclusive
By Byron Lee

IN SHARP RELIEF-This illustration, from Time/, depicts Rice as stoic and determined.

She is one of the most controversial figures in our community, the significance of her achievements overshadowed by her allegiance to a faltering, misguided regime. In this issue of the limelight, we explore the background of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Born on Nov. 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, her father John, a pastor, and her mother Angelena, an organist and science teacher, instilled in Condoleezza (named after the Italian musical expression con dolcezza ("with sweetness")) both the idea that she was special and the idea that she would have to work much harder than others to ensure success..

Her parents took what may seem to some blacks as controversial measures en route to having the young girl fight oppression. Instead of getting involved in the marches of the time, The Rices, like many parents in Birmingham's black middle class Titusville subdivision, opted to take the child directly home from school, immersing Condi in a regimented schedule of school work and extracurricular activities. John Rice is said to have taken this approach in order to prepare his children for the future, saying to them, "Things will not always be this way." As Rice stated in a 1993 interview with the Chicago Tribune, "I remember it as a time parents had to try to explain why we had to drive all the way to Washington D.C., before we could stay in a hotel. And they had to explain why I could not have a hamburger in a restaurant but I could be president anyway, which was the way they chose to handle the situation." (An additional, more visceral reminder of racism occurred on September 15, 1963, when four girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, just down the street from John Rice's church. One of the girls killed was Denise McNair, a classmate of Rice's.)

In addition to helping their only daughter, The Rices were extremely progressive for their time. John organized college fairs through his church at a time when very few blacks considered college as an option. Furthermore, when Condi enrolled in school, her mother, dissatisfied with the second-hand books being used at the school, bought new textbooks for Condi's class. Condi sped through these books (she is still a speed reader today) and was soon tutoring her classmates.

In addition to classwork, Rice found another passion growing up: the piano. Her grandmother, tired of hearing the young girl bang on the keys, decided to teach her how to play. (Condoleezza claims that she learned how to read music before she learned how to read; She continues to play the piano to this day and, years later, astounded a piano teacher at Stanford with both her dedication and memorization skills.)

Rice skipped both the first and seventh grades and graduated from high school at the age of 15. She enrolled in Denver's Lamont School of Music (her father had become vice chancellor at the University of Denver and moved the family to Colorado during Condi's high school years). She felt intimidated by her classmates and changed her major to political science after taking an international politics course taught by Josef Korbel, the father of future Secretary of State Madeline Albright. The Washingtonian reports that, when her father warned her that, "Blacks don't make money in political science." Condi casually responded "Music either."

FOR THE BOYS (AND GIRLS)-Condoleezza Rice, along with other members of the Cabinet, greet our troops. Ms. Rice’s accomplishments have caused her to receive several e-mails and letters daily from young girls looking for inspiration.
Condoleezza became fascinated with Soviet politics and culture. She received a bachelors in International Relations in 1974, earned her masters in Economics at Notre Dame and earned her PhD in International Studies, with an emphasis in Soviet studies, in 1981 from the University of Stanford. This same year, she was awarded a fellowship and became an assistant professor of political science at the university. She was the only black woman on the faculty. (It was during her extensive studies that Rice had a political conversion; She voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, but was disillusioned by Carter's handling of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.)

Rice would see a change in scenery when former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, remembering the way Rice discussed foreign policy at a dinner several years earlier, drafts her for several positions in the George H.W. Bush Administration, many concerning Soviet, European and national security affairs. She serves for an historical three years (during which the Berlin Wall fell, Germany became one once more, and Russia became a supporter of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf War) and returns to Stanford with a telling observation: "You go to Washington with whatever knowledge you have, and then you burn it down. The problem is that sometimes people stay beyond the time that they have any intellectual capital left," she told the Washingtonian.

INTELLECTUAL AND ELEGANT-Rice at an informal meeting.
Rice was chosen as Stanford University's Provost (chief financial and academic officer) in 1993, the youngest in the school's history. Her tenure is widely remembered for various reasons. She started a program to help eradicate the school's deficit and balance the institution's budget. She also earned practice being loyal to a polarizing figure, in this case university president Gerhard Casper. She was also derided for restructuring the undergraduate program, chiefly with regard to the multicultural studies component. (The situation came to a head with the dismissal of a popular chicana studies professor, which led some students to go on a hunger strike; She finally decided on an "Introduction to Humanities" curriculum that would incorporate the history of many cultures into the core of american history.) In support of the unification of the history program, Rice stated in an interview that, "If you're going to read and understand Frederick Douglass, then you'd better understand Thomas Jefferson, because that is who he was referencing."

BEST FACE FORWARD-Some say that Ms. Rice’s presence in the Cabinet has added a much needed humanity to our current administration.

George H.W. Bush, having struck a rapport with Rice during her time in his administration, invited her to Kennebunkport, Maine in 1998 to be George W. Bush's foreign policy coach. Rice and the younger Bush hit it off over sports and fishing. She joined Bush's campaign and became national security adviser after the 2000 election. (According to the Washingtonian, John Rice, in the hospital with stokelike symptoms, saw his daughter sworn in via television; he died six days later on Christmas Eve. (Her mother Angelena died in 1984.)

GRACE UNDER FIRE-While Rice has drawn criticism for her allegiance to the stances of The Bush Administration, she has been lauded for her poise under pressure.
After the resignation of Colin Powell, Rice was weary about taking the Secretary of State job, due to her perceived lack of qualifications for the position and fatigue after the draining re-election campaign. The second term president, however, talked her into it. As the body count for the Iraqi War rises and our country breaks free from the ideological stranglehold employed by pro-war forces after the 9/11 attacks, Rice faces a great deal of adversity. Her trip to New York during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was deemed by many to be horribly insensitive. (She reportedly shopped for shoes and was booed when she took her seat during a performance of the Monty Python musical "Spamalot.") Ms. Rice has not been helped by the perception that she replaced someone thought to have left The Bush Administration chiefly because he was tired of being the lone dissenter in the cabinet.

FUTURE IN THE AIR-Rice, a football fanatic, has toyed with the idea of being NFL Commissioner, once her time in the Presidential Cabinet is up. Others say that she will move back west, due to her personal and professional roots there.
Regarding her future plans, Rice has kicked around the idea of being commissioner for the National Football League. (Her office finds a portrait of War general/Secretary of State George Marshall sharing space with Cleveland Browns memorabilia.) Many, however, believe that she will make her way back westward, due to her personal and professional roots there. As far as her personal life is concerned, Rice, who dated football players in college, claims that she is too busy to maintain a relationship.

NewsMaker And NewsMan- Condi with George Curry.

Wherever she goes, and whatever we think of her allegiances, Condoleezza Rice is someone who has, and will continue to, leave her mark on history.

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