Twelve years ago Thursday, Birmingham-native Condoleezza Rice became one of the most influential women in the world of global politics, making history as the first African American woman to serve as Secretary of State.
Nominated by former President George W. Bush, Rice first served as his national security advisor beginning in 2000. Her role became extremely important after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. She went on to become Secretary of State in 2005 for Bush’s second term. Throughout her tenure in the position, she played a crucial part in shaping the most aggressive U.S. foreign policy in modern history, with wars launched against both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Here are ten things you may not have known about Rice:
- Rice was born on Nov. 14, 1954, in then-segregated Birmingham, Ala. as the only child of Angelena and John Wesley Rice, Jr. Her mother was a high school teacher while her father was a high school guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister.
- Her name is derived from the Italian con dolcezza, a musical term meaning to play “with sweetness.”
- As a child she wanted to be a concert pianist and thus, was the first black student to attend classes at the Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music.
- A child prodigy, Rice skipped the first and seventh grades, graduating from high school at age 15.
- She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in political science at only 19 years old from the University of Denver, where she studied international relations with Josef Korbel, father of the first woman to become Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
- Rice received seven honorary doctorates between 1991 and 2004 from Morehouse College, the University of Alabama, and the University of Notre Dame to name a few, in addition to the Ph.D. she earned from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
- She’s currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
- Her dream job is to be commissioner of the National Football League. She’s currently the lone woman on the 12 member College Football Playoff selection committee.
- She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary society that recognizes achievement in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.
- Rice she helped Bush craft race-based preferences in university admission policies.