She leads the way for African Americans and women everywhere.
From a childhood in the segregated South, to becoming the first African-American Secretary of State, she showed us that no matter who you are and where you come from, you can shape your own destiny. This is another installment of our Living like a Pearl series where we celebrate the lives of great women. You can find other stories here.
Born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, to a Presbyterian minister and a teacher, Condoleezza grew up surrounded by racism in the segregated South. She was barred from attending events and entering establishments, witnessed the violence of the Civil Rights Movement, and at eight years old, her schoolmate was murdered in the bombing of the primarily black Sixteenth Street Baptist Church by white supremacists in 1963.
But that didn’t stop her from greatness. She earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Denver and Master's degree in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame. She also received a PhD from the School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. Over the course of her career, she has been awarded eleven honorary doctorates and had many published works.
Her name, Condoleezza, is inspired by the music-related term “Con Dolcezza”, which means "with sweetness" in Italian. But her strong nerve and delicate manners earned her the nickname of "Warrior Princess" – a nickname that served her well during her political career.
Condoleezza was the first woman to serve as U.S. National Security Advisor and the first female African-American Secretary of State. Before Barack Obama, Condoleezza and Colin Powell were the highest-ranking African Americans in the history of the federal executive branch.
She had to stand strong in the face of criticism, like when Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly criticized and portrayed her as a young, inexperienced academic who did not know her place.
She served as the director of Soviet and East European affairs with the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and while Secretary of State, she played an instrumental role in the efforts to stop the nuclear threat from North Korea and Iran.
Condoleeza wrote many political books, amongst others about the Soviet Union and the Cold War. In 2017, she wrote, “Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom” which makes the case for democracy as opposed to totalitarianism or authoritarianism.
But Condoleezza is not all business. She has been a life-long musician, playing piano in public since she was a young girl. At only 15, she played Mozart with the Denver Symphony, and while Secretary of State she played regularly with a chamber music group in Washington, and has performed at diplomatic events at embassies, including a performance for Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2012, she announced that her future is in education. She is currently the Director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Additionally, she’s a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Condoleeza also serves on many corporate boards and is a founding partner of an international strategic consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates, LLC, where she advises major companies on how to implement strategic plans and expand into emerging markets.
She has appeared four times on the Time 100, Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people.
At 66 years young, this pearl will keep on inspiring many women of different races with her warrior princess attitude.