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Condoleezza Rice was attending her father's church when a bomb exploded just a few blocks away at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963. Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family (Crown), recounts the segregation the former secretary of state experienced, and her life as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. She spoke with online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey about faith and foreign policy during her book tour in New York City.

Did the racial tensions you experienced as a child have any impact on your faith?

The church was so much the center of our lives in Birmingham, the center on Sunday, the center on Tuesday, the center on Thursday. I don't know that any of us could have gotten through that period without tremendous faith.

As someone who never had a time when you didn't have faith in God, how do you think your spiritual journey is different from that of someone who had a more defined conversion experience?

Every spiritual journey is different in some sense. It's a matter of circumstances. My spiritual journey is one of trying to deepen that faith, trying to struggle with it, as my father taught me to do, not to become complacent.

You say in the book you never had a specific crisis of faith. But has your faith been challenged over the years?

Oh, sure. I've certainly felt like everyone does when something bad happens—"God, how could you let this happen to me?"—which is always our first response. But I always realize that maybe I had been prepared throughout my life to deal with these challenges from a position of faith.

Before you worked in government, did you feel like God was directing you toward public service?

I don't think somehow intellectually that God said, Okay, you're going to quit piano and become ...

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In the Magazine

January 2011

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