- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says she supports “soft affirmative action,” but that it should never be associated with “lower expectations” or “lower standards” for blacks and women.

“When people assume blacks or women are less capable, and, therefore say, ‘lower the standards,’ that’s the killer. It’s the worst thing you can do to anyone,” Miss Rice, who is black, said in a lengthy television interview on Armstrong Williams’ show “On Point.”

The interview will air 7 p.m. Sunday on the TV One network on D.C. Cable Channel 60.

In the interview, Mr. Williams called Miss Rice “the most powerful woman on earth.” She did not disagree.

“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a blessed life,” she said, adding, “I don’t think race or gender have gotten in the way. But it doesn’t mean they haven’t impacted my life.”

As a former provost at Stanford University, Miss Rice has had experience with affirmative action. Because of that, she says, President Bush sought her opinions regarding the legality of affirmative-action programs at the University of Michigan, which consider race for admission to its undergraduate college as well as its law school and were the subject of a lengthy court battle.

“I told him what I thought, which was that we shouldn’t have quotas, that I thought there were problems with the Michigan program, but that it was important in my view that race be … allowed to be considered a factor, because race is a factor in American life. You can’t ignore that,” Miss Rice said.

Asked to define how race should be considered a factor in college admissions, Miss Rice replied, “I would call it ‘soft affirmative action,’ or the ability to look at the total person and to recognize that race is a factor in the life of that person. And so is the fact that the person came from a small school or a large school or plays a piano or throws a football. The taking [into] account of the whole person.”

Miss Rice said she thinks that college admissions programs “work best when they don’t work by formula” but look at what an individual can contribute and recognize that minorities can contribute diversity.

In a ruling in June, the Supreme Court preserved the law school’s affirmative-action policy by a one-vote margin. However, it said the university’s policy was too rigid. That program awarded admission points based on race.

Mr. Bush had asked the high court to deem the programs unconstitutional.

Miss Rice said she thinks the president was correct to let the issue be decided in the courts.

“I, personally, think the court came out in a very good place,” she said.

A significant part of the interview was taken up with questions and responses concerning Miss Rice’s growing up in Birmingham, Ala., which she described as being “completely segregated” at the time.

She discussed how her parents, now deceased, her teachers and the black community engaged her in intellectual pursuits, such as theological debates, piano playing, ballet, literature, and learning foreign languages as a young child.

Miss Rice, 49, said she grew up believing that she could achieve as much as anyone else and that there were constant messages that black children “might have to be twice as good” as whites to succeed.

“Twice as good meant ‘don’t assume people won’t factor race in, and make sure you’re good enough that they can’t factor race in,’” she said.

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