Condoleezza Rice Gets Personal

In Extraordinary, Ordinary People, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chronicles her childhood in the segregated South and the devoted family that helped make her a star on the global stage. She gave LHJ a sneak preview.
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Why write two memoirs?
I didn't think I could do justice to either in just one book; to the book about policy that comes next year or to this story of my family. And I really wanted to make sure the story about how I grew up and how I became who I am, in particular my parents, didn't get the short end of it. Because that's a bigger story than being a foreign policy specialist. The first one's the story of growing up in America during extraordinary times and parents who had incredible values about life and education and I didn't want that story to be shortchanged.

What's the name of the second book?
I haven't given it a name yet.

But it's not Ordinary, Extraordinary People?
[Laughs]. No but that's a good idea.

What was the most difficult or emotional chapter to write for you?
Oh, by far the chapter about my mother's death. Because my mother died so young. I was thinking the other day, I'm 55. My mother died at 61. And in an odd way, it was difficult to write about my father's death but my father was 78. He had lived a full life and experienced a lot. But I always felt that my mother's life was cut short and that was hard to write about.

Are your parents the "extraordinary, ordinary people"?
It's my whole extended family really, but my parents in particular. I remember them saying, "You can't have a hamburger at Woolworth's but you could be president some day." That's a pretty remarkable outlook to have during segregation.

What's the best advice your parents ever gave you?
I'm very glad my mother didn't let me quit piano lessons at age 10. She said I wasn't old enough or good enough to make that decision, and she was right. I remember at the time I was shocked. I did not like that my mother said those things to me. But when I got a chance to play with Yo-Yo Ma or more recently with Aretha Franklin, I thought, I'm really glad she said what she did.

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