Monday, November 27, 2006

con dolcezza

Americans for Dr. Rice
Dedicated to drafting Dr. Rice for President in 2008.

"Power matters. But there can be no absence of moral content in American foreign policy, and furthermore, the American people wouldn't accept such an absence. Europeans giggle at this and say we're naive and so on, but we're not Europeans, we're Americans - and we have different principles."

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, February 2003
If you are wondering why anyone would be so inspired by Dr. Rice, please read her amazing story below:

Condi Rice Takes Up Golf

By Ronald Kessler (11/27/06)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dominates the world stage, and she is consistently rated the most admired woman in America; yet little is known about her personal life.

Recently, Rice was at Camp David for a weekend when President Bush invited her and other friends to play golf. She wasn’t very good at it but continued to practice after everyone had left. Within a few weeks, Rice had signed up to take golf lessons from a pro. They hit the links at Andrews Air Force Base every Sunday when she’s in town.

That is typical of Rice, a driven perfectionist whose parents taught her in segregated Birmingham, Ala., that blacks had to be “twice as good” to pull even with whites.

Brushes With Racism

Most people don’t know that when she was 8, Rice was attending the service at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where her father was the minister, when she heard a deafening blast. Two miles away, at 10:22 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist church had been bombed. Not until the next day did she learn that Denise McNair, one of her friends and classmates, was one of the four girls who died.

Rice attended the funeral of her friend who loved her dolls and left mud pies in the mailboxes of her childhood crushes. Rice remembered how small the coffin was. She also remembered that she somehow knew the police would not investigate the crime. If they did, no one would be convicted. It was not until 40 years later that the FBI and local authorities finally developed enough evidence to bring about convictions of three Ku Klux Klan members responsible for the bombing.

Like other African-Americans in Birmingham back then, Rice had to sit at the back of buses. When more whites got on, the driver would move a “Colored” sign farther back in the bus, making more room for whites and less for blacks. Rice could not eat at the same restaurants as whites unless the restaurant had a separate room with a separate entrance for blacks. She was not allowed to use the same drinking fountains or public restrooms as whites. But Condi Rice, a descendant of slaves and white slave owners, had something else going for her: Her middle-class black neighborhood of Titusville had developed a culture separate from the rest of the city, one that shut out the racism all around and taught children they had to excel.

“My parents,” Rice says, “were very strategic. I was going to be so well prepared, and I was going to do all of these things that were revered in white society so well, so that I would be armored somehow from racism. I would be able to confront white society on its own terms.” Rice lived in a place where restaurants wouldn’t serve her a hamburger, she says, “But my parents were telling me I could be president.”

An Avid Music Fan

Rice started taking piano lessons at age 3. Her mother, also a pianist, based Condi’s first name on the Italian phrase con dolcezza, a variation of the musical direction con dolce, meaning “with sweetness.” As a teenager, Rice was a competitive ice skater and French speaker. She is also an excellent tennis player.

Having interviewed her twice, I’ve found Rice to be even prettier, more charming, and more composed than she appears on TV. Rice served on the board of Chevron and made more than $250,000 by investing in Chevron stock. She buys eight pairs of Ferragamo shoes at a time. Every Saturday, she has a manicure at the salon in her Watergate apartment.

Rice maintains constant eye contact, gesturing with her hands as she makes her points.

I asked Rice, who is single, if she dates.

“The one thing I don’t do is talk about my personal life, but let me tell you this: I’m not a workaholic; I have friends,” she says. “I do other things besides work, and I wish I had time to do more other things.”

In fact, Rice has a weakness for football players. When her father coached high school football, she became an aficionado. Rice was briefly engaged to a Denver Broncos player. At Stanford, she dated Gene A. Washington, a former four-time All-Pro receiver for the San Francisco 49ers who was then assistant athletics director at Stanford.

He became a TV sportscaster and now heads football operations for the National Football League in Washington. Rice has shown up at Washington parties and White House state dinners with him. A fellow Alabaman, Washington says they are just friends.

A Spiritual Side

Rice is a spiritual person. She told me she prays as many as 10 times a day.

“I’m a minister’s daughter,” she says. “It’s the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes I pray to myself and sometimes, when I’m alone, I pray out loud.”

About once or twice a month, at 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, Rice plays the piano with a chamber group at her apartment.

“I’m a great Brahms fan,” she told me.

Rice is good enough to have accompanied Yo-Yo Ma at Constitution Hall when President Bush honored the renowned cellist in April 2002. A Russian speaker, Rice occasionally reads a Russian language newspaper.

With her friend Mary Kate Bush, a former alternate executive director of the International Monetary Fund, Rice attends the symphony or the opera at the Kennedy Center.

“We love to shop,” said Bush, who serves on the boards of corporations and mutual funds. “We play tennis together. Every now and then we get to go to a movie. We watch TV — sports in particular — and spend relaxing, quiet evenings. We make dinner or order in and veg out.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Get his dispatches FREE sent you via e-mail. Click here now.

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