Condoleezza Rice: What to know about the barrier-breaking former secretary of state, national security adviser

Condoleezza Rice: What to know about the barrier-breaking former secretary of state, national security adviser

Condoleezza Rice became the first woman to serve as national security adviser and later the first Black woman to hold the post of secretary of state under former President George W. Bush.

Rice, now 66, was named head of the National Security Council when Bush was elected in 2000 and was an influential adviser to the president following the September 11 attacks.

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In 2005, Rice succeeded Colin Powell as the U.S. secretary of state, helping to negotiate an end to Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and persuading North Korea to return to the table for talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Early life and education

Rice was born on Nov. 14, 1954, in Birmingham, Ala., to John and Angelina Rice, both educators.

Rice and her family moved to Denver in the late 1960s, where she enrolled at the University of Denver at age 15. She entered as a music major and considered becoming a concert pianist. But Rice changed career trajectories after taking a course in international relations.

Rice was the 66th secretary of state of the United States, only the second woman, and first Black woman, to hold the post. 

Rice was the 66th secretary of state of the United States, only the second woman, and first Black woman, to hold the post.  (Associated Press)

After earning her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1974, Rice went on to earn her master’s in economics from the University of Notre Dame the following year. She returned to the University of Denver, where she earned a doctorate in political science from the Graduate School of International Studies

Love of music

Rice’s first name derives from the musical term “con dolcezza,” which in Italian means to play with sweetness.

She became an accomplished pianist at a young age. At age 15 she performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

While serving in the Bush administration, Rice played the piano in public on multiple occasions.

Rice returned to teaching at Stanford University after breaking boundaries at the White House.

Rice returned to teaching at Stanford University after breaking boundaries at the White House. (AP)

In 2002, when Yo-Yo Ma received the National Medal of the Arts, the cellist requested that Rice accompany him on stage. The two performed the slow movement of Brahms’s Violin Sonata in D minor in an arrangement for cello and piano.

In 2003, Rice and her group held a private concert in her apartment, performing for a bipartisan group of classical music aficionados that included Supreme Court Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Harriet Miers, who served as White House counsel to Bush, according to The New York Times.

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Educator

Rice joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1981 as a professor of political science, winning two of the highest teaching honors: the 1984 Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 1993 School of Humanities and Sciences Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.

She served as the school’s provost from 1993 to 1999 before leaving the post to become foreign policy adviser to the Bush campaign.

After breaking boundaries as the first Black woman to hold the roles of national security adviser and later secretary of state, Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor.