Condoleezza Rice, the former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, is one of the most well-known women in American politics. Her outstanding journey is credited to her schoolteacher parents.

Birmingham as a child was segregated

Condoleezza Rice was born into a black household and grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents were both educators who believed in providing their daughter with the greatest education possible. John Wesley Rice Jr., her father, was a high school football coach and guidance counselor in Birmingham’s black public schools, and Angelena Rice, her mother, was a teacher and church organist.

Angelena adored opera and music, and John Wesley Rice Jr. was an ordained Presbyterian preacher in Birmingham’s self-founded Westminster Presbyterian Church. She, like her mother, enjoyed music and began taking piano lessons at the age of three. At the age of four, she began accompanying her father’s church choir. At the age of five, the first black female national security adviser was able to read proficiently.

While the black schools thought she was too young for first grade, her mother disagreed. Instead, she quit her job and homeschooled Condoleezza for a year. She later advanced from sixth to eighth grade. Her parents were foresighted and ensured that she was well-prepared for the future. They raised her in such a way that she could challenge white society on its own terms.

My parents were extremely calculated; I was going to be so well prepared, and I was going to be so good at these things that were admired in white society, that I would be protected from prejudice in some way. On my own terms, I’d be able to challenge white society.

Condoleezza Rice grew up in a racially heated environment. Her parents, on the other hand, were determined that their only child would grow up to be a successful and confident young girl. Their life motto was that she had to be twice as good as everyone else in order to succeed.

To succeed in this world, you’ll have to be twice as good as everyone else

John and Angelena instilled in her the will to excel and exceed others. Someone refused to sit next to her as a little black girl, and when she told her father, John said, “You know what, if they don’t want to sit next to you simply because you’re black, that’s alright, just as long as they move.”

They constantly encouraged her to take advantage of any educational possibilities that came her way when she was a young child. They taught Condoleezza to never be a victim, even in an unjust society. Consider yourself a victim, she claimed, was a grave sin in her community.

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Major in International Politics

Condoleezza’s passion for music led her to major in piano at Denver University. But she soon recognized that continuing to play the piano would not guarantee her a bright career.

She later returned to the same university to pursue a new major. She enrolled in an International Politics course taught by Josef Korbel, a Soviet expert, which immediately pleased her and piqued her interest in politics. Professor Korbel is also regarded by Rice as a long-time mentor.

When asked about her life’s accomplishments and inspirations, the former Secretary of State always mentions her parents. “I usually say, you had to know John and Angelena Rice,” she remarked in an interview with NPR. In her book Extraordinary, Ordinary People, she also discussed her parents.

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By Meera