Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Thursday, 30 March 2006 13:06 UK

Profile: Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice
Ms Rice's intellectual brilliance is undisputed

Condoleezza Rice was the first black female to be appointed as US secretary of state.

She was also the first to occupy the key post of national security adviser.

She is the most academic member of the Bush foreign affairs team and - because of her gender, background and youth - one of the most distinctive.

Personally close to the Bush family she is often invited to spend weekends with the president and his wife Laura at Camp David.

Ms Rice has been one of his key supporters during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in President Bush's continuing "war on terror".

But while the Iraq war has taken its toll on the president's approval ratings, hers have held steady.

She has consistently been one of the most popular members of the Bush administration and she has been touted to take the Republican ticket in the 2008 presidential elections - despite repeatedly ruling herself out.

Ms Rice was well-known for her stern demeanour as national security adviser - earning her the nickname "warrior princess" - but as secretary of state she has assumed a more genial air.

Still, she has not minced her words, in recent times leading a Bush administration charge against Iran and taking a tough stance on Syria.

Against all odds

Ms Rice was born in 1954 and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama under the shadow of segregation. Racism was so ingrained in her childhood that she says she hardly noticed it.

My parents had me absolutely convinced that, well, you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth's but you can be president of the United States
Condoleezza Rice
When she was just eight years old, Ms Rice was standing inside her father's church when she felt the floor shake. A Ku Klux Klan bomb had exploded at a Baptist Church two blocks away, killing four young black girls, one of them her classmate since kindergarten.

She has often said that to get ahead, she had to be "twice as good", and her childhood chiselled her strong determination and self-respect.

Ms Rice's mother was a music teacher who taught her to play the piano. Her father was a pastor and college principal, who shared his enthusiasm for sport with his daughter.

Change of heart

In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Ms Rice said that despite growing up with racial segregation, personal expectations were high.

"My parents had me absolutely convinced that, well, you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth's but you can be president of the United States," she said.

George W Bush (left) and Condoleezza Rice
Rice is a close friend as well as political ally of Bush
She says her parents taught her that education was the best armour against segregation and prejudice.

Ms Rice went to the University of Denver at 15 and graduated with a degree in political science at the still tender age of 19.

A fine pianist, she had originally enrolled as a music student, with the intention of embarking on a concert career.

But while at Denver she came under the influence of Josef Korbel, a Czech refugee and father to the US' first woman secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

Under his guidance, she became interested in international relations and the study of the Soviet Union and switched courses.

Testing times

A master's and doctorate followed and, at the age of 26, Ms Rice became a fellow at Stanford University's Centre for International Security and Arms Control.

After serving as the Soviet affairs adviser on Bush senior's National Security Council, Condoleezza Rice returned to Stanford in 1991 and, in 1993, became the youngest, the first female and first non-white provost.

Until her appointment as national security adviser, she was a member of several boards of directors, including that of the Chevron Corporation (which named one of its oil tankers Condoleezza Rice, but later renamed it Altair Voyager).

Condoleezza Rice (right) and Yo Yo Ma
A concert level pianist, here Rice is accompanied by Yo Yo Ma

When the Bush administration came to power, her influence over early foreign policy strategy was considerable.

She led the tricky negotiations with Russia over missile defence, and is thought to have spearheaded the unilateralist tone of the first months of the Bush presidency.

But it was in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks in Washington and New York that she really proved her strength, standing staunchly by the president during the difficult days ahead and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She is thought to be one of the most significant creators of the controversial Bush doctrine of pre-emptive action against states thought to be a threat against the US.

"The United States has always reserved the right to try and diminish or to try to eliminate a threat before it is attacked," she stated firmly in an interview shortly before the war in Iraq.

Rice: Iran is terrorism 'banker'
17 Feb 06 |  Americas
'Warrior princess' to White House?
25 Jan 06 |  Americas
Rice wins praise after first year
28 Dec 05 |  Americas
Growing up with Condoleezza Rice
28 Feb 05 |  Americas
Notable secretaries of state
16 Nov 04 |  Americas

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