The Unflappable Condi Rice
Admirers have called her one of the country's best and brightest and the President's secret weapon. At a June 4 meeting with Jordanian, Palestinian Authority, and Israeli leaders, President Bush called her "my personal representative" and said she would work closely with the parties to help bring about peace. Her significance in shaping American foreign policy is hard to overstate.
Known affectionately inside the White House as the Warrior Princess, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice often speaks for the President on foreign policy and is one of his closest confidants. From her northwest corner office of the West Wing, she is responsible for sharpening and presenting the arguments of the administration's often rambunctious National Security Council.
Before her current stint, she had overseen decisions in corporate boardrooms, managed a multimillion-dollar budget at Stanford University, and negotiated key deals for the first President Bush.
Rice's keen intellect, steely unflappability, and Southern charm have served her well. Those qualities, her family and friends told Christianity Today, arise from something deep within her. "Her faith is absolutely fundamental to who she is," says Randy Bean, executive producer of special television projects at Stanford and a longtime friend. "It's part of her fiber."
"She's very close to the Lord," says Rice's aunt, Genoa Ray McPhatter. "She knows that he guides and directs her. She learned this early as a child, to have that faith, and to believe that the Lord can do all things."
A 'Perfect Little Lady'
Born on November 14, 1954, the year before the civil rights movement began, little Condi entered the brutally racist environment of Birmingham, Alabama, surrounded by her family's strong faith and lavish devotion.
Her father, John W. Rice Jr., was a second-generation minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church and an educator. Her mother, Angelena, was a music teacher and church organist. From the beginning, the Rices resolved that their daughter would have the most nurturing, stimulating environment possible. A full schedule of activities ensued: youth group, piano, ballet, French, flute, violin, speed reading, and church every Sunday.
"I had parents who gave me every conceivable opportunity," Rice told Vogue.
Condi's early religious influences included her maternal grandmother, a piano teacher who was deeply grounded in her Christian faith. The first piece she taught her granddaughter to play was the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Her grandmother urged her children and grandchildren to exemplify Jesus. "Whenever we would leave home she always told us to take the name of Jesus with us," says Rice's aunt McPhatter. "It was a constant reminder to keep Christ in our hearts and minds, foremost."
Music was a family affair, and as early as age 3 Condi played piano at family gatherings. At 5 she accompanied her mother at the organ bench during worship services. Her name is from the Italian phrase con dolcezza, which refers to playing music "with sweetness." Unlike other neighborhood children who often played outdoors, she was more likely to be found reading a book or practicing the piano.
"She always was the little lady," says McPhatter. An elegant and fashionable woman herself, Angelena took care to dress Condi stylishly. She took her daughter to the same fine clothing stores frequented by Birmingham's wealthy whites, and on more than a few shopping trips, Condi saw her mother stand up to segregationist store clerks.