Condoleezza Rice: My role models are ‘old white men’

Candy Crowley, host of CNN’s “State of the Union,” interviewed former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the 2011 Women Working for Change Conference about her new book “No Higher Honor,” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and politics at National Harbor near Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Between questions about history and policy Rice had some advice for those attempting to find their path to success. According to the former secretary of state, people should first find what they love to do and dedicate themselves to it.

Rice recalled how her parents, when she was growing up in segregated Alabama, would tell her that she needed to be twice as good — Rice said that should apply even outside of a racial paradigm.

“They meant [twice as good] in a racial context but I think ‘you have to be twice as good’ is not bad advice for anybody because if you are constantly striving to be twice as good, you’ll work really really hard,” she said. “I think it is important to have people in your life who will take an interest in you and your career and help guide you.”

Rice then explained her philosophy on role models.

“I know we sometimes say you had to have role models who look like you, well I don’t really believe that. If I had been looking for a black, female, Soviet specialist role model, I’d still be looking,” she said. “Also my role models are actually white men — as a matter of fact, old white men, because that is what my field was dominated by.”

She added that women and minorities should try to steer clear of quickly crying “sexism” or “racism,” advising that they give people “the benefit of the doubt.”

“I think it is extremely important, particularly if you are a female or a minority, not to assume the worst in people. Give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just don’t like what you are saying. Maybe they just don’t like you. Maybe it doesn’t have to do with your race or gender,” she said. “And if you are constantly referring to race or gender as the reason you are treated badly, then you are just going to burn yourself out.”

Beyond Rice’s life lessons, the former secretary of state under George W. Bush again defended the administration’s decisions to go into Iraq and Afghanistan, noting the lessons learned from Sept. 11, 2001.

“We got rid of one of the biggest threats,” Rice said regarding Saddam Hussein and the decision to invade Iraq.

“Also, with all due respect to those wanted to save the Libyans from Muammar Gadhafi, and I am glad they did — but he threatened his people. Saddam Hussein put 400,000 of his own people in mass graves. Where is the humanitarian outrage about that?” Rice asked. “So those who believed there was a humanitarian reason for overthrowing Gadhafi, was there not a humanitarian reason for overthrowing Saddam Hussein?”