The event, presented by the Commonwealth Club, took place at noon in a packed auditorium at the Mark Hopkins hotel and was disrupted by protestors who blended in with the crowd and interrupted Rice as she was speaking.
The talk was a Q&A with Mary Cranston, former chair of the Commonwealth Club board, and afterward, Rice signed copies of her book, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family.”
The protesters, later identified as five women from CODEPINK, a grassroots peace and social justice movement, were quickly escorted out of the auditorium by hotel security and San Francisco police, who were on hand at the event.
The women denounced Rice, shouting, “Shame on you, Condoleezza Rice! You’re wanted for war crimes,” and “You should be in jail!” among others.
The protesters were detained and later released.
Rice briefly acknowledged the protesters, saying, “She can say whatever she wants,” after the first interruption, then continued to answer Cranston’s questions.
Rice described her experience growing up in segregated Alabama in the 1950s and ’60s and how support from her family and mentors helped her become the first black woman to serve as secretary of state.
Rice earned the title in 2004 after being appointed the first female national security adviser by President George W. Bush in 2001.
In 1997, Rice served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military. She hit her stride in 1989 when she became the director of Soviet and East European affairs with the National Security Council and special assistant to Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The crowd erupted into applause as soon as Rice walked through a set of double doors on the side of the auditorium.
She began to talk about her parents: her mother was a teacher and her father was a football coach, then a counselor, and later a pastor, which were high positions for black people during that time, Rice said.
Despite limitations imposed by segregation, Rice, an only child, said her parents instilled in her the idea that she could be president one day. She realized her leadership potential when she was elected president of the family. She organized family vacations and the family’s move to a new home.
Education was considered a way to help break down racial barriers.
“Education was kind of a talisman against everything bad,” Rice said. “They may not like you, but they would have to respect you.”
After the family moved to Denver, Rice, who was all set to become a concert pianist, began to question her career choice. She took English literature and government classes and didn’t find a spark.
Then, she took an international politics course and finally found her niche. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Denver, a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver.
Rice then moved to California and became the first black woman to become a Stanford provost, the second highest role at the university, at age 38. She held that position from 1993 to 1999.
Rice went on to talk about how she recently met with President Obama, whom she gave a copy of her book–a special young adult’s version–to pass along to his two daughters.
Rice said having a black president is a good sign.
“It means America is everything that it claims to be,” she said.
Rice said that America will never be colorblind, but, “We’re no longer defining roles by color.”
She also said she has no plans to run for political office and will continue her passion for public service, including working with the Boys & Girls Club of America.
After the talk, Arlene Stevens waited in line to have her books signed by Rice. Stevens had the regular version of “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family” and the young-adult version.
Stevens said she really enjoyed the talk.
“I thought it was phenomenal,” she said. “Ms. Rice’s responses were excellent … concise and to the point.”
Stevens said she enjoyed how Rice related her experiences, not just talking points.
She said she hoped Rice would hold more events to reach a wider audience, including more racially diverse crowds and younger people.