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South, is her own best example of what she calls “the essence of America.” What really “unites us,” she has written, “is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea — and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.”

C Not only has Rice done great things, she has

chalked up a number of firsts throughout her pub- lic and private life. In 1993, Rice, who has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Denver, became the first woman and the first African American to be named provost of Stanford Univer- sity, a post she held for six years. During that time, she also served as the university’s chief budget and academic officer. In 2001, Rice was appointed U.S. National Secu-

rity Advisor by President George W. Bush — the first woman to hold the post. She went on to become the first black woman — and only the second woman — to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, from 2004 until 2009. In both those roles, Rice pioneered a policy she called “transformational diplomacy,” which advocated for the formation of new global govern- ments based on democratic principles. Last August, Rice became a groundbreaker

on another course, literally, when she and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore became the first women to join Augusta National Golf Club, one of the world’s most prestigious clubs. The author of two New York Times bestsell-

ers — Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family and No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington — Rice has proven to be a significant leader during a time of unprecedented and tumultuous world affairs. She has been recog- nized for her efforts to foster worldwide freedoms for all people. Her love of America and her faith in its core values are the foundation of her presenta- tions regarding foreign policy, education, and the empowerment of women. Since 2010, Rice has served as a faculty member

at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy. She drew from her rich and varied career in a recent phone interview with Convene.


ondoleezza Rice, who spent her early childhood in Birmingham, Ala., in the heart of the segregated

‘Find something you love doing. And work really hard. My parents always said that I had to be twice as good. Part of that was that we were minorities living in

Birmingham, but also that message can refer to anyone who wants to achieve.’

You excel musically, academically, and athleti- cally, and are the author of two New York Times bestsellers. What was it about your childhood and your background that resulted in your many accomplishments? I was fortunate in that I had extraordinary par- ents. [I] wrote a book about them. My mother was a teacher and my father was a high-school guidance counselor. They absolutely believed that I could do anything. They provided every oppor- tunity to me that they could afford — and some that they couldn’t afford. In [our] little town of segregated Alabama, they made it clear that your fate is in your own hands — that you had to work twice as hard. And as a matter of fact, I did not feel any boundaries. I believed that my horizons had no limits.

I was in a bookstore this morning and saw the biog- raphy that you wrote especially for young people. The salesperson told me that it is hard to keep cop- ies on the shelves. What is your message for today’s young people? Find something you love doing. That is the most important thing. And work really hard. My parents always said that I had to be twice as good. Part of that was because we were minorities living in Birmingham, but also that message can refer to anyone who wants to achieve. If you love what you are doing, working hard is not a chore but a joy.

When commenting on your future during the last presidential election, you said, “I’ll go back and be a happy Stanford faculty member, and, obviously, I’ll do what I can to help this ticket. But my life is in Palo Alto. My future is with my students at Stanford and in public service on issues that I care about, like education reform.” What specifically would you like to see in education reform? I did a report on the New York [City] school system and outlined three musts — high expectations of students, excellent teachers, and high standards. I am not a supporter of the self-esteem movement where everyone always wins. Confirmation and acclaim come from having actually achieved some- thing. Finally, I am an advocate of school choice, because poor parents also care about their kids and often don’t have choices that others have. Trying to increase the choices of parents is very important. I believe in a broad education. Math, science, and reading are important, but extremely critical


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