The nation's former top diplomat breaks into the clubby ranks of men at Augusta
"I am delighted and honored to be a member," she says
Augusta welcomed its first black member in 1990
Condoleezza Rice is used to blazing trails – the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state, the first female national security adviser and now one of the first two female members of the Augusta National Golf Club.
“I am delighted and honored to be a member,” she said Monday in a statement. “I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf.”
The 80-year-old club, until Monday, excluded women as members, which drew fierce criticism from women’s groups.
Rice is also a member of the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club, which admitted its first African-American member in 1990.
That was the year Augusta welcomed its first black member – Ron Townsend, a Gannett television division president.
In April, the White House weighed in on the matter of gender and membership in the club.
“The president’s answer is yes, he believes women should be admitted,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in response to a question. President Obama believes it is “up to the club to decide, (but) his personal opinion is that women should be admitted to the club.”
That same month, presumed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, “Certainly if I were a member, if I could run Augusta, which isn’t likely to happen, of course I’d have women into Augusta.”
Rice, the nation’s top diplomat under President George W. Bush, had worked on President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff and was a special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1986.
The 57-year-old internationally recognized figure grew up in humble beginnings in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, and rose to prominence in academia and international diplomacy.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Denver and a doctorate from the college’s Graduate School of International Studies.
Rice has long been affiliated with Stanford University, where she has been on the faculty since 1981. She has written scholarly texts as well as two best-sellers – “No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington” (2011) and “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family” (2010).
Rice is also a bit of a Renaissance woman. She is a concert pianist with a love of football. She has said her dream is to be NFL commissioner.
She is a member of various boards, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been awarded 10 honorary doctorates.
Earlier this year, she ruled out a possible role as a presidential candidate, despite leading a CNN/ORC International Poll for GOP presidential possibilities.
“How many ways can I say it? Not me,” she told Fox News in March.
But her story resonates across the political spectrum. She reflected on her own American Dream at a Southern Methodist University commencement speech in May.
There was “a day in my own lifetime when the hope of liberty and justice for all seemed impossible,” Rice said. But a “different America” emerged because of faith in the “ideals of equality.”
“In Birmingham, Alabama, a little girl whose parents can’t take her to a movie theater or to a restaurant – her parents nonetheless have her convinced that she may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth’s lunch counter, but she can be president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state,” she said.