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Interview With Maggie Rodriguez of CBS's The Early Show

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 12, 2008

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, tell me about the One Woman Initiative. What is it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m very excited about this initiative that was announced this morning with Carly Fiorina and Sheila Johnson as co-chairs. It is an initiative to recognize what can be done if women are empowered, because around the world there are so many women, so many girls who don’t even have the opportunity for education, let alone entrepreneurship. And the title, “One Woman,” just says that perhaps if you can empower one woman, she can empower a village, that village then can empower a town and, ultimately, a whole society. And so that’s the excitement of this opportunity.

QUESTION: Why is it so important to you personally?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have watched around the world as women who really come from very modest circumstances have perhaps started a small business and literally employed many, many people in the village and become a kind of hub of economic activity. I also think it’s true that when a society treats its women badly, it’s not a good sign for the rule of law; it’s not a good sign for human rights. Very often, some of the worst abuses, whether in war or conflict, are against women, violence against women. And it becomes a kind of bellwether of how well we’re doing in terms of the spread of decency, of dignity for human beings.

And I’ve always been struck by the stories, for instance, from Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban where girls weren’t even allowed to go to school, and now millions of girls going to school. That says that there’s progress there. And from my point of view, probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received was from a group of Kuwaiti women just when Kuwait’s women got the right to vote, and it said, “A half a democracy is not a democracy at all.” And I think that’s absolutely the case.

QUESTION: What has empowered you in your life to become the one remarkable woman that you are?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m lucky. I had great parents who believed in me and who really believed that my horizons were limitless. They -- I grew up in segregated Alabama, but they had me believing that, yeah, we couldn’t have a hamburger at Woolworth’s but you can be anything you want, president of the United States, you could be a great concert musician, whatever you’d like to be. And so it takes somebody -- for me it was parents and I had a great family and I also had wonderful teachers throughout my career who opened up horizons to me.

But the important thing is that for a child who perhaps doesn't have parents like that or maybe doesn't even have a family that’s supportive, there needs to be somebody. We all know, and I’m sure you know, that there were people who took you on their shoulders and hoisted you up and said you can be whatever you can be -- you want to be. And so that’s why an initiative like this is important because perhaps some girls will be empowered, or some women to better themselves and better their societies.

QUESTION: Your parents told you that you could be president of the United States?


QUESTION: Would you consider first being Vice President?

SECRETARY RICE: No, my parents had the wrong career path, believe me. (Laughter.) But it was wonderful to have parents who were so affirming and had such unconditional love. I think it’s the basis of everything that I’ve become.

QUESTION: People talk about a dream ticket in Democratic politics, Obama-Clinton, Clinton-Obama. And when they talk about a dream ticket in Republican politics, they say McCain-Rice. Would you consider it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that’s very nice, but this isn’t for me. I don’t know how many ways I can make clear that I’m going back to California. I belong west of the Mississippi. No offense to the East Coast, but I belong west of the Mississippi. And John McCain will find a fantastic running mate. I’m sure of that. He is a great man, who is a great patriot. But it’s time for me to move on.

QUESTION: Even if it would increase the chance that your party could stay in office for four more years?

SECRETARY RICE: We’ll have many people who will be the perfect running mate for John, and they’ll get it done. But it’s time for me to move on. It’s been a long seven and a half, soon to be eight years. I think we’ve achieved a lot. We’ve made our share of accomplishments. We’ve made our share of mistakes. That’s the way that it is.

I’m very proud to have been a part of this Administration. We’ve still got hard work to do. We’re off to the Middle East with the President to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding, a really remarkable story of a state that started out as a fragile state, a place to which people escaped from great horrors, now a vibrant democracy and one of America’s best friends. The President will also be in Sharm el-Sheikh and in Saudi Arabia to meet with Arab states that are supporters of the Annapolis process that is trying, by the end of the year, to help the Israelis and the Palestinians find a road to peace. So I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I look forward to the next several months doing that.

QUESTION: Do you think that eight months is enough time for the President and you to accomplish that goal?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, if the parties want to do this and will put the energy and the will into it, I think they can do it. I’ve been impressed by their commitment. I’ve been impressed by their seriousness. On my last trip to Israel, I sat with the chief negotiators, Tzipi Livni and -- the Foreign Minister, and Abu Ala from the Palestinian Authority. I talked with them for more than two and a half hours. It’s amazing how seriously they are discussing these issues, how determined they are. And they’re doing it quietly, they’re doing it out of the glare of the camera, because they know that they are having to deal with very complicated and, indeed, sensitive issues. And just because they’re not before the camera every day saying, oh, look what we achieved, I think there’s a misperception that perhaps not that much is going on in the political negotiation. But I find it quite heartening what they’re doing.

QUESTION: Do you ever have moments where you get frustrated that things will never be resolved there?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in this work you can’t be frustrated because you know that a conflict like this has gone on for decades. It would have been resolved had it been easy; it would have been resolved a long time ago. We’ve been close a couple of times, couldn't get it done. But I’m also a big believer that nothing is really impossible. It might be improbable, but it’s not impossible. And it simply takes the effort and the time and the right circumstances. And there are so many examples in international history of things that we once thought impossible that not too long after that seemed, oh, well, that must have been inevitable.

You know, I was a specialist on the Soviet Union. If anyone had said some even 20 years ago, well, there will be no Soviet Union, it will collapse of its own weight, no shot will be fired –

QUESTION: You wouldn’t have believed it?

SECRETARY RICE: You wouldn’t have believed it. And there are many, many other examples like this. So yes, I believe Israelis and Palestinians can make peace. It’s going to be hard work, but this is a conflict that’s gone on too long.

QUESTION: Will it be difficult for you when eight months is up to kind of give up your babies to someone else?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, it’s the nature of this work that you give up to others the continuation of that work. I was lucky the last time around. I was the White House Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War and I got to see the completion of a lot. I got to see the end of Soviet power in Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany. And I was at the front end of the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union.

But of course, all of that came about not really because of what we did in 1989 and 1990, 1991, but because of groundwork that had been laid in this building, the State Department, and other places in 1946 and 1947 and 1948. They had to hand off to the next set of leaders who would take it just a little bit further and a little bit further and a little bit further, until our values triumphed in the end of the Cold War on terms favorable to the United States and favorable to a balance of power that favors freedom.

Now, I know that this time I’m at the beginning of a great historic transformation, a time when the Middle East is coming to terms with all the many fissures and differences that it has, a time when democracy is being talked about openly for the first time in the Middle East, when people are trying to come to terms with centuries-old traditions and questions about the role of individual rights, of women’s rights, how will that square with tradition, what will be the role of religion in society and in politics. These are issues that were resolved for us many, many years ago, but that are new in the Middle East. And they face these issues at a time when they have violent enemies who are trying to destroy the seeds of democracy there.

So it’s a tough time and it’s a time that’s turbulent, but it is a time that I’m sure that if we stay true to our values, that if we believe in these principles, if we join forces with indigenous forces that believe in these principles throughout the Middle East, some Secretary of State will sit here some decade or two decades or three decades from now and say, “Why did anybody ever doubt that, of course, these governments would triumph in the Middle East, just as they’ve triumphed everywhere else in the world?”

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, have you reached out to the military government in Myanmar?

SECRETARY RICE: We have done everything that we can to try and bring relief for the people of Burma. We have tried to work with the international community. But we’ve also made contact through our military channels and through USAID with representatives of the Burmese Government. It’s my hope that those channels will prove more effective in getting relief in. This is a humanitarian issue. This is not a political issue. I think people know that we believe that the Burmese Government is treating its people poorly, that it should be engaged in a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and the legitimate opposition.

Yet right now, we need to try and stabilize. We need to deal with the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding there. And the inability to penetrate the layers and layers and layers in Burma has made it very difficult to have anything that approximates the kind of international effort that we need. And so we’ve reached out through alternative channels. I hope they’ll work.

QUESTION: What response have you gotten? A “No, thank you”?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no. My understanding is that it’s still an open channel of communication. We are hoping that we can get some relief flights in, but I don’t want to go further than that. I just hope that, at this time, that the Burmese leadership, the Burmese Government, will recognize that this is truly a humanitarian cause; we only want to help save its people.

QUESTION: Have you reached out to China?

SECRETARY RICE: We have reached out to the Chinese and we are very saddened by the earthquake that has taken place there. Clearly, there’s a great toll in human life. We are prepared to offer assistance if it is needed. The Chinese have not yet said that they need assistance, but I believe we have the kind of relationship with China that, if assistance is needed, we will know and we will, of course, respond.

QUESTION: You’re involved in so many different projects. I have to ask you, finally: What is your favorite thing about your job?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, my favorite thing about being Secretary of State is representing this great country. America has hard work because we are the most powerful country in the world, because we do have to do difficult things sometimes, not all of which are popular and some of which aren’t even very well understood. But when I go around the world, I feel the great affection for America and Americans and what we stand for.

And when I go to places, like I recently was in Bahia in Brazil, the center of Afro-Brazilian culture, and I can reach across those lines a little bit to talk about the common heritage of a country that also experienced crippling slavery and is now trying to deal with the residual effect of that, or when I go to the Baltic states and I recognize that the United States stood by the Baltics for the entire period of Soviet occupation of the Baltics, and now, I can sit with the Estonian or the Lithuanian or the Latvian foreign minister in a NATO council, or when I go to Iraq and I see the very difficult circumstances, but I also see that these are people who are freed of one of the world’s great tyrants of the 20th and early 21st century, and I know that despite the difficulties, that the Iraqis are going to make it and they’re going to form a decent society, it’s representing what this country stands for. It’s representing who we are.

It’s not doing it in a way that is arrogant, somehow, because one of the points that I often make is that it’s been hard for us to fully deliver on democracy for all of our people. But it is recognizing that this is a unique country. It’s unique in who we are because we come from all nationalities and ethnicities, but we’re all American. And in a world where difference is still a license to kill, it’s very, very heartening and very affirming to represent a country that celebrates diversity.

QUESTION: Is there any regret? I hear a lot of pride in your voice. Is there any regret?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I’m sure that as I look back over these years, I’ll see many things that we could have done better or we could have done differently. That’s the nature of this work. But I have no regrets and I believe that the only thing that I would have regretted was if we hadn’t tried, if we hadn’t tried to stand for democratic values, if we had not tried to help give people a chance at a better life, if we had not tried to deal with the scourge of AIDS and malaria, as the President has done, in reaching out to Africans to help them deal with their great pandemics. I would regret if we had not tried to help the Palestinians and the Israelis in their conflict.

In this work, which is always the work of generations, which is always hard work, you succeed sometimes, and other times you don’t. But America is known as a country that has extraordinary imagination about what is possible. And if we ever lose our optimism about what is possible and start accepting the world as it is rather than working for the world that it can be, then the world is going to be a much diminished place. And because I think we’ve tried to do that, I think I’ll leave happy.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.



Released on May 13, 2008

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