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Interview With Phillip Rawls of Associated Press Alabama Bureau

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Montgomery, Alabama
April 14, 2008

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you a question first that my 18-year-old daughter told me I had to ask. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: She has your picture up on her bulletin board in her bedroom with Johnny Depp and a couple of rock bands and all this.

SECRETARY RICE: Keeping good company, I see. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And she jokes that -- she goes to an academic magnet school here, and she -- they jokingly call it “The Nerd School.” (Laughter.) But what kind of message would you like to send to teenagers who look up to you as a role model?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that I would say, particularly when you’re about 18 and maybe you’re about to go off to college --

QUESTION: Yeah, she’s a senior.

SECRETARY RICE: Right. Just go to college intending to find what it is that you love, not what it -- what job you want, not what career you’re going to seek, but to find your passion. And so I always tell kids who are about to enter freshman year: Go and take a broad range of courses. Take courses that are hard for you, which teach you the discipline of doing something perhaps you’re not as good at. If you’re really good at mathematics, then take some humanities courses. If you’re really good at English, take some mathematics courses. But most importantly, take a broad enough set of courses that you might just find something you’re really passionate about. There is no reason in the world that a young, black woman from Birmingham, Alabama should have gotten interested in the Soviet Union, of all places, but it was just something I was passionate about and I loved it. And it was what made me want to get up every day and know more about that. And that’s the thing that you have to find.

And if you’re going to do that, you can’t let anybody else define who you are. “Girls shouldn’t do that,” or, “Minorities shouldn’t do that.” You have to have -- set your own horizons, and let it be limitless. Don’t accept limits on your horizons. It means you have to work pretty hard, but the most important thing is if you’re doing something you love, then working very hard isn’t very hard.

QUESTION: Is it comfortable or uncomfortable being a role model?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, I don’t really think of it that way. But I’m glad that people find positive elements in my story and positive direction in my story. I certainly had role models. There were people that I looked up to. There were people that I -- I never thought, well, I want to be just like that person. I think that’s not really what you want to do. But you may find elements that help you define how you’re going to navigate through life in lots of people. And so it’s fine, but I don’t think people want to be -- when people ask me -- my students -- you know, well, how do I get to do what you are doing, I say, well, you have to start out as a failed music major and go from there. (Laughter.) So life takes funny turns.

QUESTION: Have you had any conversations recently with John McCain?

SECRETARY RICE: Not about anything having to do with his presidency. No, the only time I’ve talked to John recently was when we -- I had to call him and tell him that -- around that passport issue, that somebody had looked at his passport file. And he was typically great about it and sort of said things -- things happen.

John McCain is an amazing man. You know, I’ve spent a lot of time with him over the years. He’s a great intellect. He has a tremendous passion about this country. He’s a great hero. But I do not want to be, don’t intend to be, won’t be on his ticket.

QUESTION: Why not? Everybody talks about what strengths you would bring to the ticket.

SECRETARY RICE: It’s time for me to do something else. For one thing, the country -- we’ve been -- this Administration has been in office for now seven-plus maybe of the hardest years that the country has faced, certainly since World War II. And I think we've had some -- the President has had some amazing achievements. We've had our setbacks. We've done a lot of things right and we've done some things not very well.

But one thing is certain; this country has a great reservoir of talent, and it can draw on that talent and I can go back to California and teach and write. And we'll see in a few years what I do. But I -- this is not the time for me.

QUESTION: So at Stanford come January?

SECRETARY RICE: It’s Stanford come January. That's right.

QUESTION: Have you talked with President Carter about his visit with Hamas?

SECRETARY RICE: I've not personally. But we have counseled against it. Hamas is a terrorist organization and it's an organization that's not committed to peace. And I don't think it's ever going to be committed to peace.

And I was struck by something that my German foreign minister colleague said, which was exactly right, which is that, you know, what we are trying to do is we're trying to strengthen the moderate forces, the people who are committed to nonviolence, Abu Mazen and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority, which is by the way, the legitimate authority for the Palestinian people. And what does it say to them when they stand and say we are not going to use violence, and you decide, oh, we really need to talk to people who are using violence and who led an illegal coup d'état to take over Gaza from legitimate Palestinian authority and fire rockets every day into Israeli towns? The people that ought to be strengthened are the Palestinians who are following a path of nonviolence and negotiating peace with Israel, not those who have decided to try to destroy it.

QUESTION: You had an aunt and uncle here today.


QUESTION: Any other family still in Alabama?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes. That -- that's my mother's brother and his wife. I have another aunt who just turned 85, and she still does substitute teaching two times a week. I've got an array of cousins here in Alabama, and then some family over in Atlanta and in Columbus.

QUESTION: Do they ever give you any thoughts when you get together for family gatherings? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Not about politics, fortunately. (Laughter.) They give me plenty of advice, but not about politics. No, I'm lucky to have them. I'm an only child, but my parents were very dedicated to making sure that our extended family was close. And my grandfather, on my mother's side, if the family hadn't gotten together in a while, he'd just call up everybody and say, you know, you haven't seen your cousins. And so we're very close.

QUESTION: Well, I think I've probably used up my time.

SECRETARY RICE: Great. All right.

QUESTION: I appreciate you doing this.


QUESTION: I will --

SECRETARY RICE: You're not going to ask me whether or not I think Alabama's -- whether it’s going to be Alabama or Auburn this year? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, being an Alabama grad, I'd like to -- (Laughter.) Yeah, I have a son who's a senior there, so --


QUESTION: Yeah, and then a senior in high school.

SECRETARY RICE: That's great. Well, tell your daughter I said good luck.


SECRETARY RICE: Does she know where she's going to go to school?

QUESTION: She's going to Virginia Commonwealth --

SECRETARY RICE: Is she really?

QUESTION: -- to their film program. She's wanted to be a film editor since she was in junior high school.

SECRETARY RICE: That's terrific.

QUESTION: She's headed up there. So it'll be a ways from home. Her mother's not real happy about that.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, but that's -- a great school.

QUESTION: Thanks for the interview.

SECRETARY RICE: All right. Take care.


Released on April 14, 2008

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