No Higher Honor

No Higher Honor
By Condoleezza Rice
Crown Publishers November 2011
Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s compelling story of eight years serving at the highest levels of government.  In her position as America’s chief diplomat, Rice traveled almost continuously around the globe, seeking common ground among sometimes bitter enemies, forging agreement on divisive issues, and compiling a remarkable record of achievement.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama who overcame the racism of the Civil Rights era to become a brilliant academic and expert on foreign affairs, Rice distinguished herself as an advisor to George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign.  Once Bush was elected, she served as his chief adviser on national-security issues – a job whose duties included harmonizing the relationship between the Secretaries of State and Defense.  It was a role that deepened her bond with the President and ultimately made her one of his closest confidantes.
With the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Rice found herself at the center of the Administration’s intense efforts to keep America safe.  Here, Rice describes the events of that harrowing day – and the tumultuous days after.  No day was ever the same.  Additionally, Rice also reveals new details of the debates that led to the war in Afghanistan and then Iraq.
The eyes of the nation were once again focused on Rice in 2004 when she appeared before the 9-11 Commission to answer tough questions regarding the country’s preparedness for – and immediate response to – the 9-11 attacks.  Her responses, it was generally conceded, would shape the nation’s perception of the Administration’s competence during the crisis.  Rice conveys just how pressure-filled that appearance was and her surprised gratitude when, in succeeding days, she was broadly saluted for her grace and forthrightness.
I love this story from Rice who is one of the world’s most admired women.
“I don’t tend to have big birthday celebrations, so even though I was turning 50 [on Nov. 14, 2004], I thought I’d just have a casual dinner with family and go to bed early. But on the way to the restaurant, the car detoured to the British Embassy, where I was stunned to see people from every stage of my life. Then I had this horrible thought—‘I’m underdressed!’ They were all in gowns and tuxedos, and I had on black pants and a turtleneck.”
“But they whisked me upstairs and brought in this red satin gown that Oscar de la Renta had made for me. I thought, ‘I’m really going to be like Cinderella’—well, without the glass slippers.
“President Bush gave the toast; he used the word friend, which meant a lot. And Van Cliburn played ‘Happy Birthday.’
“It’s hard to keep your center in Washington, and I was about to go into a major new role—secretary of state—so it was wonderful having all of that love and support rush at me.”
Surprisingly candid in her appraisals of various Administration colleagues and the hundreds of foreign leaders with whom she dealt; Rice also offers here keen insight into how history actually proceeds.  In No Higher Honor, she delivers a master class in statecraft -- but always in a way that reveals her essential warmth and humility, and her deep reverence for the ideals on which America was founded.


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