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Condi: The Condoleeza Rice Story

Apr 7, 2008, 9:57 AM

A book on Condoleeza Rice is bound to arouse because she is one of the prominent cabinet members of the Bush administration. She is widely known to be the President's confidante. She is the first African American woman to occupy the lofty post of Secretary of State; Collin Powell, an African American, had been a Secretary of State before but he is male. Madeleine Albright, a woman, had served as Secretary of State but she is not an African American.

In this book, the author traces Condi's childhood in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s right up to the late 1980s when her razor-sharp intellect stood out in the field of male-dominated foreign relations. She excelled at school and became assistant professor of political science at StanfordUniversity at the age of twenty-eight. Though she set out to be a great pianist, all that changed when she met Josef Korbel, a former European diplomat and father of Madeleine Albright.

The book dwells a lot on the early influences on Condi's life, especially her parents who instilled in her the value of hard work and self-confidence. John and Angelena Rice took great care to nurture their daughter so that she would grow up to compete successfully in life. "Because Condi could read fluently by age five, Angelena wanted to start her in school that year. The principal of the local black elementary school said that she was too young. So Angelena took a leave of absence from Fairfield High for one year and stayed at home to homeschool Condi - it just didn't make sense that her perfectly capable child should be forced to waste a year of learning. Down the road, Condi was so advanced that she skipped the first and seventh grades." (Page 39).

It was also her mother, a pianist and organist, who fashioned Condoleeza from the Italian term con dolcezza, which in a score of music instructs the performer to play "with sweetness".

And Condi attributes her success in life to her parents' excellent nurturing. "My parents were very strategic. I was going to be so well prepared, and I was going to do all of these things that were revered in white society so well that I would be armored somehow from racism. I would be able to confront white society on its own terms." (Page. 43)

She did just later in life at the University of Denver. She was in a class where William Shockley's theory of dysgenics, which stated that human evolution is on a backward track because populations with low IQs, namely black Americans, are reproducing more quickly than whites. Shockley believed that art, literature, technology, linguistics - all the treasures of Western civilization - are products of the superior white intellect. Condi disagreed with this view that blacks are "genetically disadvantaged". She sprang up from her seat and told the professor. "I'm the one who speaks French! I'm the one who plays Beethoven. I'm better at your culture than you are. This can be taught." And she was just 15 at the time.

It is clear from the book that Condi got to the top by dint of hard work, perseverance and uncommon discipline.

This is a book that anybody born and bred in difficult circumstance can always turn to for inspiration and solace.

It is highly recommended by The Point.

You can pick up a copy at Timbooktoo Bookshop.