This post was written by Katie Hudak Senior Program Associate / Social Media Facilitator at Meridian. It is a part of a blog series highlighting and acknowledging the work and contributions of Black diplomats during Black History Month.
American political scientist and diplomat Condoleezza Rice broke barriers when she became the first black woman to serve as the United State’s national security adviser, as well as the second woman and first black woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State (2005-2009).
Born in 1954 in Alabama to Angelena Ray Rice, a high school science, music and oratory teacher, and John Wesley Rice, Jr., a high school guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister, she excelled in academics and piano. Rice earned her bachelor’s degree in political science, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver (1974); her master’s from the University of Notre Dame (1975); and her Ph.D. from the Korbel Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver (1981).
She began her political career working for the U.S. Department of State in 1977 as an intern for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Her early career is marked by stunning and rapid advancement. She was hired at Stanford as an assistant professor, and due to her Ph.D. dissertation and expertise in the Soviet Union, she was then hired on at the National Security Council as an adviser to President H.W. Bush. During this time, she helped greatly in forming U.S. policy in response to the fall of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany. After working for the Bush Administration, Rice returned to Stanford where she continued her successful teaching career. As a professor, university provost and diplomat, Rice worked to promote global peace and educate others on international relations. In 2000, she was appointed the National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush. In 2004, Rice was selected as the Secretary of State of the United States.
In her roles as a diplomat, Rice has proven to be a significant leader during a time of unprecedented and tumultuous world affairs and has been recognized for her courageous efforts to foster worldwide freedoms for all people through foreign policy, education and the empowerment of women. As she continued her careers in diplomacy as well as education, Secretary Rice cofounded the Center for a New Generation (CNG), an innovative, after-school academic enrichment program for students in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, California. An advocate for education accessibility, Rice said:
“It is your responsibility as educated people to help close the gaps of justice and opportunity—and yes, the gaps of freedom that still exist beyond our shores as well as within them.”
Secretary Rice currently serves on the board of Dropbox; C3 and Makena Capital. She is also on the boards of the George W. Bush Institute, Commonwealth Club, Aspen Institute and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She has served on several other corporate and non-profit boards. Rice is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded eleven honorary doctorates. She has appeared four times on the Time 100, Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In 2004 and 2005, she was ranked as the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine and number two in 2006 (following the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel). Condoleezza Rice has also authored and co-authored numerous books, including two bestsellers.