Condoleezza Rice (The New Yorker 2002)

I’ve read this profile of Rice when it came out in 2002. So glad that the New Yorker pulled it out of their archives and made it available on-line this week.

Without a Doubt, by Nicholas Lemann, the New Yorker 2002.

A couple of stories that left the most strong impression in my mind then:

There are a couple of oft-told stories about Rice directly confronting racism. In one, she is an undergraduate at the University of Denver, and a professor approvingly cites William Shockley, the co-inventor of the transistor, who, in those days, was barnstorming the country making speeches about black people being genetically less intelligent than white people. ¡°I raised my hand and said, ¡®You really should not be presenting this as fact because there¡¯s plenty of evidence to the contrary,¡¯¡± Rice told Isabel Wilkerson in an interview for Essence. ¡°¡®Let me explain to you: I speak French, I play Bach, I¡¯m better in your culture than you are.¡¯¡± In another story, Rice is shopping for jewelry at the Stanford Shopping Center with an academic colleague and close friend named Coit (Chip) Blacker. The clerk pulls out the costume jewelry. She and Rice trade hostile remarks. Then, as Blacker told the story to Dale Russakoff, of the Washington Post, ¡°Condi said, ¡®Let¡¯s get one thing straight. You¡¯re behind the counter because you have to work for six dollars an hour. I¡¯m on this side asking to see the good jewelry because I make considerably more.¡¯¡±

Another quote from the profile that I find interesting:

In one of our interviews, I asked Rice if, when she was teaching international relations, there was a thinker on American foreign policy she had particularly admired. She said that she¡¯d been a big fan of Hans Morgenthau. In 1951, Morgenthau published a short book called ¡°In Defense of the National Interest: A Critical Examination of American Foreign Policy.¡± …He ends the book with a strange quasi-poem, called ¡°Forget and Remember!,¡± parts of which feel almost eerily applicable fifty years later:

FORGET the sentimental notion that foreign policy is a struggle between virtue and vice, with virtue bound to win.
FORGET the utopian notion that a brave new world without power politics will follow the unconditional surrender of wicked nations.
FORGET the crusading notion that any nation, however virtuous and powerful, can have the mission to make the world over in its own image.
REMEMBER that diplomacy without power is feeble, and power without diplomacy is destructive and blind.
REMEMBER that no nation¡¯s power is without limits, and hence that its policies must respect the power and interests of others.