Interview With April Ryan of American Urban RadioSecretary Condoleezza Rice
January 14, 2009
QUESTION: I’m with our esteemed Secretary of State, Dr. – Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. And it’s always a pleasure to sit and talk with you, and I thank you for keeping your promise as we were in the Rose Garden at an African visit and you said, yes, we will do this.
And today, as we are conducting this interview, we’ve got a lot of news going on. Not the obvious news of what’s happening -- you know, we’ll talk about Usama bin Ladin later, and also, you know, what’s happening with the last days of the Bush Administration. But let’s talk about this history. You were the first African American Secretary of State; Madeleine Albright was the first woman Secretary of State. Now, you have, first a former First Lady coming in, and another woman, you know, following behind you as Secretary of State; then we have an African American, a man of mixed race, becoming the President of the United States. This country is -- is changing. And I’m not saying that because that’s his motto, but we are seeing change so fast. What do you think about that as you were part of – you witnessed a first – you were eyewitness, of sorts, to what happened to the four little girls. Where have we come, in your opinion?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is a remarkable journey that America has been on, and I’ve always said that America had a birth defect at its founding: it created high ideals about all men being created equal, and then slavery. And of course, the Civil War and Jim Crow and the great Civil Rights Movement, and it’s been a long journey. But I think it says that America is becoming what it claims to be, that we are overcoming our old differences. And in fact, of course, April, I’m the second African American Secretary of State -- Colin Powell. And so we’ve had back-to-back –
QUESTION: We can’t forget him.
SECRETARY RICE: We can’t forget Colin, that’s right. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And I’m sorry, Colin. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: That’s all right. I’m the first African American woman –
QUESTION: Woman, yes.
SECRETARY RICE: -- Secretary of State. And so Colin and me and -- it’s been some – it will have been some 16 years since there was a white male Secretary of State. So that says something.
QUESTION: Isn’t that something?
SECRETARY RICE: It really is remarkable.
But of course, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency is a whole different level, and it just says to me – and it was an election campaign that I was very pleased with, because really, race didn’t become a factor. It isn’t, I think, that America is race-blind. I don’t think we want to make that mistake. We still see race. Race is still a problem, particularly if you’re caught in the witch’s brew that is poverty and race.
But I do think that it’s come that people don’t define each other any longer by race, that you can look at an African American and see your Secretary of State, or a head of a Fortune 500 or Fortune 50 company; that you can see the world’s greatest golfer, and he’s African American; and now, that you can see the President of the United States. So it says to me not race-blind, not race-neutral, but, in fact, able to see past race to get to other important attributes.
QUESTION: Early on in the Bush Administration, you helped President Bush come up with an amicus brief on the University of Michigan. And we had a time to talk about that, and you talked about the issue of targets of opportunity, not necessarily affirmative action, but targets of opportunity. Do you think now, that an African American is finally in some – some consider the last standing for white people or a white male, that we now still need targets of opportunity or affirmative action?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think we do still need targets of opportunity and affirmative action. I believe that it’s going to be a while before African Americans populate the pools from which people are found in the numbers that are necessary. And – but I think we can begin to see that those days are coming.
What I would encourage us to do, though, is, without quotas, to keep looking outside of normal networks, because there’s a kind of self-reinforcing character to networks, and the same people keep turning up over and over again. Stanford didn’t normally find its faculty at the University of Denver. I happened to be in their midst as a fellow. I think it’s worked out all right for them. It’s worked out all right for me. And so I think you can get outside of the normal networks.
But it’s also more than race. We’re going to have to work hard to get outside of those normal networks, particularly to bring people in who didn’t come from privilege, because increasingly, a lot of African Americans come from privilege. But a lot of African Americans don’t. When I say come from privilege – I saw your face, April. Now, let me tell you –
SECRETARY RICE: Let me tell you; my parents probably never made $60,000 a year between them. But I was privileged. I was privileged to grow up in an educated family where education was the key, and where there was never a question if I was going to – were you going to go to college. It was, where are you going to go to college?
QUESTION: And they exposed you, as well.
SECRETARY RICE: And they exposed me, as well. So despite the fact that we were by no means wealthy, I came from privilege. And there are more and more African Americans who can make that claim. But there are still an awful lot of kids that are never going to see their possibilities, because they’re trapped in bad schools -- what President Bush has called the soft bigotry of low expectations.
QUESTION: What would you see – what would you consider seeing, or what would you like to see 10 or 15 years down the road, after all of this is said and done? You know, the other day when we were in the press conference with President Bush, I told him -- in my question to him, I said something to the effect of, you know, nine years ago when you ran, the residue of the James Byrd dragging death followed you in your campaign. Now, we have an African American as president. What do you think 15, 20 years down the road? What do you think we’re going to see by way of Fortune 500 companies, the leadership, by way of presidents of the United States, presidents around the world? I mean, because, you know, Washington is a white male dominated society still, even though you have an African American president coming in.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think you’ll start to see the ranks fill out of African Americans in all kinds of roles. This is – this is now, I believe, only a matter of time. The question is, is it going to be wide open for not just African Americans who start at a certain level, but are we going to be able to really fulfill that American belief that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going? Are we really going to be able to continue to see people of humble circumstances go on to do great things? I don’t have any doubt that there are going to be more and more African Americans in positions of authority and power, and so forth.
But I do think that because I’m worried about our educational system and worried about kids that I see warehoused, really, in so many schools – and really, this is about the public schools. You’re never going to be able to educate enough kids in the private schools to make up for poor public schools. So that’s really the question to me. Not, will there be more African Americans? There will be a lot more African Americans. But will there be African Americans across the economic spectrum? That’s really the question.
QUESTION: Now, November 4th: was it a situation in the election booth? Did you – when you walked in to the election booth, or when – did you vote by absentee, or –
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. I’m a California voter.
QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.) Well, when you had your absentee ballot, did you have to stop and think?
SECRETARY RICE: Now, April, that’s a very sneaky way to ask the question.
QUESTION: It’s not sneaky.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, it is.
QUESTION: No, but you have – no, one wonders.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And I’m wondering. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: I knew what I wanted to do. Now, I’m Secretary of State, and so my political preferences are not going to be known here. But what I was proud about in – that election, as I said, was I don’t think race really was the factor that a lot of people thought it would be. I thought that both the President-elect and Senator McCain conducted themselves in really wonderful ways. And we had before us two people that America knew could hold the highest values in the country, and that was what was important to me.
QUESTION: Were you ever concerned at any point during the campaigning? Apparently, Barak Obama had raised some ire in many white Republicans. And I don’t know if you saw, but at some of the campaign rallies for McCain, even before the woman came out saying he was an Arab, they were showing a lot of -- Republicans – some were almost calling it close to a Klan rally. And there were a lot of overt and subtle racist remarks made. Were you concerned, as a Republican, as an African American Republican, about how your party acted during this time?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don’t think my party acted in that way. I think the great, great, great bulk of Republicans conducted themselves in this campaign in a way that you would expect people to conduct themselves. They listened to the debates. I don’t know how many Republicans voted one way or another. So I don’t want to say that it was Republicans who did this.
Yeah, I didn’t like some of the things that I saw and – but not because I was a Republican, because I’m an American. And there are certain things that are off limits to say and to do. I thought that when the woman said the comment about an Arab, for instance, that John McCain handled it really, really beautifully. And I was actually, in that sense, more concerned that somebody might think that Arab – there was something wrong with Arab Americans. I mean, so what if he had been an Arab American? That would have been fine, too.
And so, ugly things are often said in campaigns. You know, you mentioned the dragging incident then. I was furious that people somehow suggested that George W. Bush sanctioned that or countenanced that in Texas. I was furious. So bad things get said in campaigns that shouldn’t be said. But I do think that, on balance, we got through this campaign without some of the racial tinge that people worried would be there.
QUESTION: All right. Looking back in the last eight years, one major issue that President Bush handled in the last press conference is Hurricane Katrina. Some people were very upset with his response. He said, yes, there was more that could have been done. But at the same time, he talked about how many people were taken off the roofs and also what would have happened if, indeed, he would have landed in Baton Rogue.
What were your conversations with the President at the time of Hurricane Katrina? And what are your thoughts looking back at what happened? Because I know so many countries around the world tried to help, they offered so much, and actually some said some of the supplies weren’t actually doled out. What are your thoughts about that, as well as how it was handled by the U.S. Government?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, just on the first issue of assistance, we did get a lot of assistance from around the world, and it was really appreciated. Some of it just couldn’t be used. One of the things that happens in these cases is that people send what they can. And we used what we could, and we made good use of things that we could not use. But by the way, it’s sometimes the case that we have to be careful about what we send to another country in times of disaster, because not everything is usable or acceptable. So I think we worked through that very well.
But as to the response, I don’t think there is any doubt that the response could have been a lot better. It was a once in a lifetime event. My dad was a Louisianan. He was born in Baton Rogue. And I remember, April, he used to say to me, “You know, the great fear is that the Mississippi will break its banks and the levees will break.” And he used to say, “New Orleans will be under water.”
QUESTION: And what year was this that he would say this to you?
SECRETARY RICE: He would say it throughout his life, whenever we’d be watching the weather channel or something and some storm would hit, and he would just talk about it. You know, how as a little boy they worried about these great, great floods. Well, my father would have been 83 or 84 years old at the time of Katrina, and it hadn’t happened in that period of time. So you realized that this was a fear for a long time, but it was also something that was a once in a lifetime thing.
And so, yes, the response could have been better. But what I resented was the notion that somehow the President didn’t respond because these were black people. That’s just – it’s cruel and it’s ridiculous.
QUESTION: Responding to Kanye West?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, and I was with him. I was with him when I came back. But I did – I called him from New York and I said, Mr. President, I’m coming back. And I said, Mr. President, we have a race problem. And it is because if you just looked at the – it’s part of the demographics of New Orleans the way people got trapped. It’s just the demographics of New Orleans. But it is showing up as a race problem, and somehow we’ve got to respond to that piece of it, too.
And I will never forget, Bruce Gordon was at the time the President of NAACP, and we talked and we talked about what could be done. And the President right away did an outreach to black leaders.
QUESTION: He was one of the first ones to call it a race problem and point out the fact that a lot of African Americans were stuck there.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, because I just – that’s a piece that somehow, in all of the efforts to deal with the response -- and you have to understand what it’s like in the White House in days like that. You’re just overwhelmed with so much. But that piece of it, I think, had not gotten the attention that it needed to. And when I talked with the President about it, he saw it right away.
QUESTION: Now, moving on to some of the news of the day. You know, many people were wondering if Usama bin Ladin was still alive. They hadn’t heard from – they’d been hearing from his lieutenant. And today, we hear from Usama bin Ladin. What are your thoughts about his comments? And also, should America really think that he is someone who poses a threat, or is he isolated and just someone who is just spouting off just for attention at this time?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think he’s isolated. And I do think he’s, you know, attacking verbally any and everybody that he can. And it’s – you know, Iraqi clerics like Sistani, and it’s just everybody. And by the way, al-Qaida has never been much of a friend of the Palestinian cause, either. So this is obviously not in any way sincere.
But he is isolated. But he’s still a threat, because he is the embodiment of the al-Qaida dream. I think that’s the way in which he’s a threat. But in operational terms, the work that’s been done to take down the field generals who are -- either have met their maker or are in detention, people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammad who was the mastermind of September 11th, or Abu Zubaydah, who was their chief financier, that’s why al-Qaida is a weaker and different organization.
Now, it doesn’t mean it’s not a dangerous organization. It is. But they have to operate in very different ways. And fortunately, because there’s a kind of international dragnet around them, it’s harder for them to operate. But, April, I’d be the first to remind Americans that people plot and plan against us every day, and that they have to only be right once and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And that’s an unfair fight. So if we think that the dangers have passed, we are wrong. We – the dangers have not passed. But we are safer today than we were on September 10th, though not yet safe.
QUESTION: Usama bin Ladin is alive, according to many in this Bush Administration. And from what you’re saying, he’s isolated, so that leads us toward “he’s alive.” But what is his condition? Is he still on kidney – I mean, you know people laugh about the fact that he’s, you know, hiding in a cave with a kidney dialysis machine, but is that the case? I mean, what is his status, seriously?
SECRETARY RICE: I don’t think we have real clarity on what his status is. The important thing is that it’s hard for them to move around. It’s hard for them to direct and organize from where they are. But the most important point that I make, again, is that we know a lot more about this organization and how to counter it and how to disrupt what it’s trying to do.
I do think we’ve dealt a pretty big blow to it in Iraq as well. They are not yet done in Iraq. But you know, I know a lot of people say, well, it wasn’t the central front in the war on terrorism. They thought it was the central front. They did everything they could to win in Iraq, but Arabs rose up against them in Iraq. And that means that wherever they are, they won’t be in the center of their ancestral home. They won’t be in the center of the symbol of the caliphate. They won’t be in the center of the Middle East. And that’s important – an important blow psychologically and philosophically to al-Qaida which depends, in part, on its mystique to recruit these sad people who, while Usama bin Ladin and his people, his – the leadership hide out in caves to prevent being killed, are perfectly willing to send 17-year-old boys to their deaths. We, both through what we’re doing to counter them, but also in trying to give a positive vision for a different Middle East, you would hope to convince those 17-year-olds that there’s a better way.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts about the fact that Usama bin Ladin has not been killed or captured?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ve flown over the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan where he’s thought to be hiding. You could hide up there a long time, particularly if you’re prepared not to communicate freely which, of course, both keeps you alive, but really undermines your operational effectiveness. And if you’re prepared to deal with this by the occasional videotape, then you can hide up there a long time. But it doesn’t mean that the organization is the same organization, and it doesn’t mean that we are not making progress against al-Qaida.
Would I like to see Usama bin Ladin brought to justice? Absolutely. But we’ve always known that this was not a one-man organization, nor a one-man threat. And so, we’ve focused on the organization and the way that it functions and disrupting it and trying to keep it from doing us great harm.
QUESTION: The day that he’s captured or caught, what path would you think -- you’d cry, I mean, or would you be you emotional? What?
SECRETARY RICE: You know, I don’t know. Look, again, I’d be – I want to see him caught. And there are people every day who spend all their time trying to catch him. But I’m much more focused on just keeping this country safe. And I know how much they want to continue to pull off an attack, and so every day that we’re safe is a great victory for us.
QUESTION: Al-Qaida in Iraq. It’s their training ground, from what we understand. And because the U.S. is right now winning, as you’re saying, do you feel that the war in Afghanistan is even harder now because they may be moving from Iraq and may be switching over into Afghanistan to wage a harder war in that tough terrain?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think they’re training less in Iraq, because it’s not a very hospitable place to be now, not just because of American forces, but because of Iraqi forces and because of Sunnis who’ve risen up against them. And I don’t know that they’ve transferred to the regions around Pakistan. I do know that there’s an al-Qaida presence there. It’s been there for some time.
One of the problems is that Pakistan after the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Pakistan was a transit point for the fighters, foreign fighters going in to fight the Soviets. After the war, a lot of them didn’t go home, and that’s given Pakistan -- a very devastating extremist problem inside Pakistan.
But we’re working with the Pakistanis, both to provide opportunities so people don’t turn to extremism, but also to do what you can to eliminate the extremist threat. And you’ve got a good civilian Pakistani Government that I think is dedicated to that cause. They don’t always have the means, and we’re trying to help them with the means, but it’s a tough fight. Again, that’s one of the most ungoverned, longest ungoverned regions in the world. And it’s tough terrain. And anybody who thinks it’s easy, again, I’d say fly over it and see what it looks like, and you’ll know why it’s not easy.
QUESTION: I can go on and on about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but our time is winding up a little bit. But I want to touch on some other issues. Let’s talk about Africa. AFRICOM, that’s going to be one of the issues that Barack Obama is going to have to deal with when he comes in. We understand that, you know, now there is a base in Germany. But why not still have a centralized base in Africa still? I mean, I understand that many of the Africans were concerned that, you know, there was going to be some kind of militarization, U.S. militarization there. Was there any kind of way or is there still any effort to try to convince them that, look, the problems are here and we need to be here to get to them right away, instead of having to fly or cross an ocean?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. And, April, that was the original notion of AFRICOM, the way you’ve described it, was to help Africans train, to help Africans get ready for peacekeeping functions, to do counterterrorism missions together. And we do work together in Africa in places like Djibouti. We do work together. Whether or not there would be any permanent facility, I think, in Africa is still an open question. It – the headquarters will be in Germany because it’s a – it was a constituent part of EUROCOM – of EUCOM, which was the European Command that used to have Africa. And AFRICOM is an effort to give Africa is own command for all of the work we do with Africans.
I think this will sort itself out over time. I think people are getting a better understanding now that AFRICOM is for humanitarian missions and counterterrorism training and peacekeeping training, not to militarize Africa.
But the thing that I’m most proud about in Africa, and it – AFRICOM is a sort of piece of that – is that nobody talks about Africa any longer as just a humanitarian issue. Yes, there are humanitarian issues. But African countries are our partners politically, economically, in security. And I think we talk about Africa -- this President talks about Africa in a different way, in a way that is really a coequal partnership, not an object of American policy.
QUESTION: He’s credited with doing more for Africa than any other President, but at the same time, you have situations like Mugabe in Zimbabwe. And I mean, we’re seeing numbers today that are just – what are your thoughts about this cholera outbreak?
SECRETARY RICE: I just think Zimbabwe is a disgrace, and the reign -- the regime of Mugabe is a disgrace. And frankly, this is one where the United States is unable to influence it alone, because this is one where Europe and the United States are pretty much united in what should happen there. And they were kicked out of the commonwealth. But really, the southern African countries – in particular, South Africa – are going to have to hold Mugabe and his people to account.
QUESTION: But they still look at him as a hero from his efforts with trying to end apartheid.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, and he was undoubtedly a hero, but – in that regard. But he’s not a hero now. If you look at Nelson Mandela, he’s a hero. He both led the anti-apartheid fight and found a way to give the South African people a decent life and a decent political system and democracy. Robert Mugabe did just the opposite. And so I don’t see how he can continue to be revered when Zimbabweans, who used to live in a country that was the bread basket of the whole region, are now dying of starvation and cholera and malaria and all kinds of horrible, preventable diseases.
And what is more, it’s spilling over into South Africa with displaced people and refugees and cholera, which doesn’t know any boundaries. So it’s high time that this was resolved and Mugabe left.
QUESTION: Because of our very interesting relationship with China, on the issue of Africa still, they are really strong in trying to build an infrastructure – this is what they’re saying – as they’re trying to gain more oil from the continent. And this Administration has been trying to work with them on building democracy, and then build the infrastructure and things of that nature. But what is the concern about how China is going in into some of the countries like Nigeria to build their infrastructure to gain the oil? And many people are saying that it’s not coming through, the plans are not coming through as they were once thought.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Chinese are going to have a role internationally. They’re a big power. And we have a very good relationship with China. One thing we’ve tried to do is to have a dialogue with China about development and about development assistance and making sure that it is actually benefiting the people, not just the donor state. And so Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary for Africa, has gone to China to talk to them about how we view this. And we actually, as a part of our strategic dialogue with China, are talking about these things, because the African countries should hold every donor to the same standards. And that means that you – if you are developing resources, you develop them in a way that actually benefits the population, not just the old, let’s take the extractive resources – the resources from extractive industries. You should be developing jobs for the countries in which the resources are. You should be developing programs in health and education, not palaces for African leaders.
And so Africa has changed. The days when African dictators robbed their people blind through corruption, lived in luxury themselves, and kept their people in poverty; it simply shouldn’t be permitted. And if we say that somehow it’s okay and we’re not going to fight corruption and have high standards for delivery of assistance, what are we saying about Africans? That somehow they don’t deserve the same standards that people do around the world?
And so yes, there – I think China will play a role. But we really have worked with China to talk about these issues, but also to see that African leaders hold to a high standard for the aid they receive.
QUESTION: And we’re almost at the end of our time together, unfortunately, but I want – I have two more questions. One; the Middle East. Where are we today? Is that a disappointment for you and this Administration? I mean, just days before the transfer of power, everything has just broken loose there.
SECRETARY RICE: I wouldn’t put it quite that way, April. Look, everything broke loose in Gaza, but this has been coming for some time. And the problem in Gaza is Hamas. Hamas took Gaza in a coup against Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and they’ve kept the Palestinian people there in misery, and used it as a launching pad to launch rockets into Israel. That wasn’t going to last. And the Israelis responded.
We are working with Egypt and others to try to bring about the conditions for a durable ceasefire. And I hope that that will come into place and that that will then provide an opportunity to stop the smuggling of weapons from – to Hamas, to create conditions in which Hamas will not fire rockets, to open some of the crossings with the Palestinian Authority in charge of them so that goods can get to the Gazans.
But the remarkable thing is the Palestinians also in the West Bank are seeing progress. And I think you couldn’t have a greater contrast to the progress that they’re making in the West Bank and the misery of Gaza to show you that it is the people who stand for a peaceful, negotiated role to a state that are going to have the best interest of Palestinians at heart.
So the Annapolis process has been affirmed and reaffirmed. They will get back to it. But the Egyptians are working hard to bring Gaza on line.
QUESTION: And the last question: transfer of power just a couple of days, and what would your advice be to President-elect Barak Obama, who will be president in a couple days, and at this time, presumably, Senator Hillary Clinton, who is looking to be your replacement as the woman of diplomacy -- what would you tell them? How to govern or advise them on this -- on all the powder kegs that we’re dealing with around the world?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the first thing is I will give them my advice privately, and I’m doing that. But let me just say a couple of things about what I think is important. First of all, it’s important to love this country and love what it stands for. It’s the only way that you can represent it effectively, and it’s the only way that you can do what is a very hard job every day, because you know that you’re standing for America, which has a special role in the world.
Secondly, that the men and women in the State Department are tremendous. They’re in places that are difficult. They’re very often without their families there. They work hard. They came into this business to change the world. And supporting them and being there for them and trying to inspire them is extremely important.
Third, it is really important to -- that America not stand for easy decisions, but for hard ones. The fact is you can always get consensus, you can always get agreement in the international community. But it will be at the lowest common denominator unless the United States stands to do the hard things.
And the final thing is keep your eye not on today’s headlines, but on history and history’s judgment, not the judgment of The New York Times or The Washington Post or whatever on any given day. Because when I look back on international history, the tough decisions that were taken -- Harry Truman’s decision to recognize Israel, the tough decisions that President Reagan took to go ahead with deployment of missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet growing missile threat at the end of -- at the beginning of the 1980s -- decisions, by the way, that led people to – women to chain themselves to American military bases, and a million people to protest American policy in the streets of Germany -- when I look at the tough decisions to oppose Soviet power and not to acquiescence in Europe and in Asia, those are the decisions that ultimately paid off with a victory in the Cold War, with a world that had a Middle East with a Jewish state that could be America’s friend. It’s the tough decisions that led to good historical outcomes.
You know, as I look back, April, I was lucky the last time I was here. I was at the end of a great historical transformation. I was the White House Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War. It didn’t get much better than that. But when I come into this building, I know that the people who were here in 1946 and 1947 and 1948 and 1949, when the Soviet Union seemed on the march, when China -- Chinese communists won their civil war, when the Korean War broke out, that they had no earthly reason to believe that 40-plus years later, the United States and its allies were going to win the Cold War unequivocally, and the Soviet Union was going to collapse.
This time, we’re at the beginning of a great historical transformation. And so you have to be willing to deal with the difficult things and the hard times and the sacrifice. I will never live a day without thinking about those who’ve lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those that I visited in Walter Reed in Bethesda; I’ll never live a day without thinking of them. But I also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice, and that history will judge the hard decisions that were made, and you can’t judge them today. You have to look to another time to see what has transpired, and what I believe will be, ultimately, the victory over this scourge of terrorism and the establishment of a world that is freer and more prosperous.
QUESTION: Where are you going from here? Playing the piano?
SECRETARY RICE: Home. Home to California. Yes, playing the piano. I sure hope so. But I’m also, April, going to go back Stanford and Hoover. I’m going to write a book about foreign policy. Of course, every Secretary of State has to. And I look forward to talking about this extraordinary time.
I want to write a book about my parents. There are probably a lot of people out there listening who will understand when I say that my parents were extraordinary ordinary people. They probably, as I said earlier, never made $60,000 between them. But they gave me every opportunity, and they did at a time when no black parents should have believed that their daughter might be Secretary of State. But I don’t think they’d be surprised, because they thought that that’s what opportunity could produce.
But as Secretary, I’ve come to know what, I think, America really is and stands for. And to me, that belief that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going is what defines us as Americans. And I worry about whether our educational system is really providing the basis for that any longer.
I started an after-school and summer program in 1992, called the Center for a New Generation. That’s a Strivers program to give underprivileged kids the benefits of a really great education, and there are five of them now in the Bay area. I’m going to go back and work on things like that because ultimately, I think, as a former Secretary of State and as a once and future educator, I’ll be able to make the case for education as a national security priority as we make sure that we lead in the future and that we stay true to who we are.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. And thank you, April, for the many years in which you’ve done this job so well.
QUESTION: Thank you. Take care, Secretary Rice.
Released on January 15, 2009