Condoleezza Rice, a respected foreign-policy voice in the Republican Party, was the first African-American woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.
Rice held senior positions in the Republican administrations of former president George H.W. Bush and his son, former president George W. Bush. Her prominent appearance at the Republican convention this year, in support of Mitt Romney, is seen as boosting his standing among minority voters in this year's presidential election.
She is best known for her service under George W. Bush, first as national security adviser from 2001 to 2005, and then as secretary of state from 2005 to 2009. She played a key diplomatic role during and after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She was a vocal advocate of what she called "transformational diplomacy" - a concept that combines U.S. foreign-policy goals with the creation of self-sustaining democracies, particularly in the Middle East.
Earlier, Rice served in George H.W. Bush's administration. She was a special assistant to the president for national security affairs, and was known for particular expertise on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Rice is professor of political science at Stanford University in California, where she also served earlier as provost, in charge of academic affairs and the university budget. Recently she earned the distinction of becoming one of the first two women admitted to the Augusta National Golf Club. The club, which organizes the highly popular Masters golf tournament, had previously been open only to men.
Rice, who is 57, grew up in Alabama at a time when much of the U.S. South was racially segregated. Before beginning her academic career, she was known as a highly accomplished classical pianist.