Rice reflects on her role in history

March 12, 2009 7:23:35 PM PDT
The nation's former top diplomat has left Washington and is back in the Bay Area. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has returned to Stanford University, where she's worked off and on for nearly three decades.

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She has visited 85 countries and traveled more than one million miles as U.S. secretary of state. Now, Condoleezza Rice is back at Stanford University where she started as a professor 28 years ago.

"I'm very happy to get up in the morning, read the newspaper and not think I have to do anything about what's in it," said former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

But she is still making news at the university.

Some campus activists are protesting Rice's return to Stanford, accusing her of "war mongering" as secretary of state.

"Oh there's a headline, controversy on a university, of course," said Rice.

Rice was provost at the university from 1993 to 1999. Now, she's a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and will teach political science. She's also signed a deal to write a book on U.S. foreign policy covering her years at the top echelon of government.

Don't expect to read about a change of heart on the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, even though the reasons for going to war were faulty.

"I fully and completely thought that he had weapons of mass destruction. I still think that overthrowing Saddam Hussein will ultimately make for a better Middle East," said rice. "The cost was very high, much more difficult than I ever thought it would be, but I would still do it."

Critics say the war has tarnished America's reputation abroad, and the Obama administration appears to be moving quickly to reshape foreign policy.

"Is that a rebuke or repudiation of you and the Bush administration?" asked ABC7's Carolyn Tyler.

"I'm not going to critique the Obama administration's foreign policy. We had our chance, they now get their chance," said Rice.

But she does have a point of view, including thoughts on President Obama's proposal to start talking to moderate elements of the Taliban.

"If those elements are there, then I see no problem doing that. You have to be careful because one can't do it from a position of weakness," said Rice.

Rice says she's given Hillary Clinton advice about the job. They're part of a select club. Three of the last four secretaries of state have been women.

"It reminds the world that America is really coming to be what it says, it is a place of equal opportunity," said Rice.

It was not that way when the 54-year-old was growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama. She plans to write a book honoring her late parents.

"I've been asked many times, how did you become what you are? Well parents are a large part of that," said Rice.

"Some of your experiences seem to be similar to other African Americans, yet there does seem to be a disconnect between you and the black community," said Tyler.

"I don't think so Carolyn. This is one I don't understand, because I've been treated well by black people everywhere I go," said Rice.

But there's no denying many blacks were outraged by the Bush administration's response to hurricane Katrina, and angry at Condoleezza Rice. She regrets how that tragedy was handled.

"I went on vacation thinking I'm secretary of state, this is a domestic crisis. I suddenly realized as one of the country's leaders and the highest ranking African American, and Katrina was something I should have felt more responsible for," said Rice.

She is committed to promoting quality education for all Americans. Rice co-founded the after school program Center for a New Generation the last time she lived in the Bay Area, and will now become involved again. .

She's also looking forward to more music, golf and she's a football fanatic. No, she's not angling for NFL commissioner nor she has no plans to run for political office.

She remains in close touch with former President George W. Bush.

"History will make the ultimate judgment," said Rice.

Rice will be the keynote speaker on Friday at an invitation-only economic summit at Stanford.

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