on October 13, 2010
How do you raise someone to not only succeed against daunting odds, but to do so with grace and poise? How do you raise a person of character, someone who combines authority and confidence with a winsome personal humility?
Condoleezza Rice has penned a candid, revealing look at the origins of her personal journey. Here is a woman of great accomplishment who is also relaxed and open about her frailties, her struggles and her doubts. The story itself is remarkable, yet what shines in these pages is the author's ease and capacity in telling it. This is a well-crafted work, written by someone who clearly loves to read.
One need not be Republican, or female, or a Stanford alum in order to value this impressive new book. One need only be a citizen of the world in this 21st century --- a world illuminated by policies and strategies shaped in part by this remarkable Secretary of State (among her other high-ranking offices).
An inspiring story, beautifully told!
Dr. David Frisbie
The Center for Marriage & Family Studies
Del Mar, California
on November 27, 2010
I started reading this book with a negative political and personal bias, but soon became absorbed with this extraordinary family story written by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice sheds a great deal of personal information about herself,her family and her experiences with race in the Deep South during the height of segregation and the Civil Rights movement. She consistently maintains her focus on family and her own self actualization, and does not get too caught up with President Bush and Republican politics.
Rice's autobiography is dramatically compelling and helps the reader understand her as an individual as well as providing insight about her political beliefs. Her story will be insightful to all readers regardless their of race or ethnicity. Nonetheless, as an African American female of her generation, I personally related to her Black middle class upbringing by extraordinary parents in the Deep South whose sacrifices developed many of us into the successful women that we have become today.
While my political biases did not change as a result of this reading, I am left with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Dr. Rice and her very extraordinary, ordinary family.
on December 13, 2010
I have long admired Condoleezza Rice. I first saw her on the "Donahue" show, where she made several appearances as a leading expert on the Soviet Union. Since I myself am fascinated by the Soviet system and the old Eastern Bloc, I clung to every word she said. When she later became part of the George W. Bush administration, I knew exactly who she was. However I may not have been able to recall who she was if it wasn't for her distinctive first name, or if Phil Donahue had not made such a big deal about her having read War and Peace in the original Russian. Since I myself am a student of European literature, I don't think it's out of the ordinary to read texts in their original language, especially so for a PhD as Dr. Rice. Back when Rice made these and other early TV appearances, she was always introduced as having read Tolstoy's mammoth work in its original Russian. At that time, I thought that there was some understated prejudice at work, and from Phil Donahue no less. Would he have been less impressed if a white male had been his Soviet expert? Would he have even introduced a man this way? Perhaps I am looking for discrimination when there isn't any, as I am sure all of us have used War and Peace as a metaphor for an extremely long piece of literature. And if one happened to tackle that colossal novel in another language, one that doesn't even use the Roman alphabet, it does seem impressive. In Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, Condoleezza Rice tells the story of her family, up until the death of her father, right before she joins the Bush administration as National Security Advisor. Rice has appeared on various talk shows promoting this book, and has said that she will tell about her eight years in the Bush administration in a separate work.
Rice grew up in segregation-era Birmingham, Alabama to middle-class parents who were both academics. Her mother was a high school teacher and her father a guidance counsellor as well as Presbyterian minister. All her life Rice was given the opportunity to try anything she liked, and was enrolled in figure skating lessons, piano classes, ballet classes and anything else she had the time for. Her parents felt that education and enrichment were power and the way out of segregated Birmingham, and Condoleezza was a high achiever from an early age.
Rice has adopted a no-nonsense, no-victim approach to life. Her family had taught her to take personal responsibility for her own success, and to blame no one, not even the whites who imposed segregation, on keeping her down. She could have anything if she worked for it, and was told "even if I couldn't have a hamburger at Woolworth's lunch counter, I could grow up to be President of the United States".
Extraordinary, Ordinary People is as much a biography of Rice's parents as it is about her own life. Condoleezza's mother Angelena was a beloved teacher who imposed order yet commanded respect from her students, all of whom towered over her since Mrs. Rice was diminutive in stature. Mrs. Rice battled breast cancer yet lost her life to a brain tumour in 1985. John Rice was a teacher, preacher, guidance counsellor and college dean who became a mentor to hundreds of youth. He, like his own father, was an educational evangelist. Both Condoleezza's father and paternal grandfather established schools for marginalized children, a role carried on in her own way by Rice herself, in establishing freshman and sophomore seminars at Stanford University.
Rice has been criticized for being against affirmative action, and even being anti-black. She addresses these issues in this book. Her own Republican partisanship has been criticized by many blacks. Rice addresses her reasons for not supporting the Democrat party, and why Ronald Reagan's policies made her shift party allegiance from Jimmy Carter's Democrats in the 1980 election. She also states that she is not interested in holding public office, and has no drive for the cut-throat world of politics.
In Extraordinary, Ordinary People Rice eulogizes her parents, both of whom died before she assumed her role as National Security Advisor in Washington. Her tributes to her mother and father are indeed touching and I reread her loving words several times over. Extraordinary, Ordinary People gave me new reasons to love Dr. Condoleezza Rice, American scholar and patriot.
on October 27, 2010
I've read three biographies on Dr. Rice, and for the first time, I feel like the real Condi has broken out. Dr. Rice's autobiography is warm, heartfelt, and genuine. I can say this because I knew her well during her senior year at the University of Denver.
It is clear from the first to final chapter that Condi is speaking from the heart. Her style makes the reader feel as though she is sitting in the room and chatting from a rocking chair by the fire. There are no pretentions, no name-dropping, no false humility. The story is laid out skillfully, incorporating the climate and social injustices of the era she grew up in. Birmingham comes alive through her bittersweet memories, her struggles and successes, her social and personal life.
This is a story of community and family told in Condi's voice, and it is full of beauty, grace, and dignity. It's a story of hope, hard work, tears, and laughter. The book is a tribute to her parents, the sacrifices they made,the example they set, not only for their daughter, but for numerous others.
It is ultimately about the unwavering love between parent and child, a love so strong it catapulted a bright, young, black woman to the top of the mountain.
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
on April 26, 2011
I am a big fan on Ms Rice. I enjoyed her book but was struck by how many references their were to "me, me, me". It was very evident that she was a beloved only child. This surprised me as I view her as someone with great sophistication and almost manic objectivity.
I loved her recollections of living through Segregation and how her Father's need to protect them from the KKK instilled in her a belief in the Constitutional Right "to keep and bear arms". It was her Father with his shotgun and other Fathers in the black neighborhoods of Birningham who protected their families, not the Goverment.
Her story of over achievement was unique in 1950s/60s and it is still unique today. I love to hear a story of someone unaffected by racial stereotypes who overcomes them without ever even taking them into consideration. Everbody belongs to a Race or Culture of some kind. Be extraordinary and forget about the rest. That's Condi Rice in a nutshell.
Highly recommend this book.
on January 8, 2011
The book met my expectations in many ways. Like a lot of books written by political figures, it utilizes a family reflection to thinly disguise a biography (think Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, or Faith of My Fathers by John McCain). Dr. Rice has weaved the story of her incredible parents into a narrative about her rise from Birmingham, Alabama, to the National Security Council. At times it was truly touching as she described the sacrifice her parents made for her. But most of the time it was more common for her to share how she made certain decisions when she did, and the excitement (and often surprise) she had at her rapid climb to success.
It's a good book. Not great, and it covers little new ground, but it was good.
on May 4, 2016
Condoleezza Rice has written a well-deserved love letter to her parents, John and Angelena Rice, who raised the future U.S. Secretary of State under horrific circumstances: 1950s and '60s segregated Birmingham, Alabama. I am in awe of her parents and grandparents who did so much with so little, especially in a time of such violence, hatred and fear when the bonds of segregation were first broken. This is a story of sacrifice and love on their part and prodigious accomplishment on her part--academically and musically. And while the subject matter is fascinating, I found the writing to be less than riveting and often boring.
on January 2, 2011
I just finished reading Former Secretary of State (hopefully future President of this country in need of a strong leader) Rice's book over a family vacation overseas to Israel, a place I would soon learn has the upmost respect and admiration for her. The book was so well written allowing the reader insight into the importance of family and how formative the role of a strong family background was in shaping the leader Dr. Rice has become in every aspect of her life. The book also has interwoven throughout just enough but not too much insight into how Dr. Rice arrived at her political and educational views. I recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in politics, but more importantly anyone who is interested in seeing how a family built on strong principals with strong family dynamics results in children with the same qualities. I genuinely think this book is a must read in every highschool classroom across the country.