- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Officially, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brought Australia’s top diplomat to California to thank a valued ally with a hometown tour.

Unofficially, Miss Rice was laying the groundwork for her return to the San Francisco Bay Area when the Bush administration ends.

Teaching at Stanford University, a book project and volunteering at an education center she started here are all part of the plan, she said.

“My future plans are to get back to California as fast as possible,” Miss Rice told a classroom full of schoolchildren in this city near Stanford. Miss Rice began teaching political science at Stanford in 1981 and was Stanford’s provost from 1992-99.

“Take it to the bank: She’s coming back to Stanford,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told the Associated Press. Miss Rice will rejoin the university as a professor, not in an administrative role, he said.

Miss Rice, 52, referred to herself as a “soon-to-be-future professor again,” and told the seventh- and eighth-graders here: “I hope to see some of you at Stanford when I get back.”

She will return to California when President Bush’s second term is complete in January 2009, Miss Rice said in a brief interview after her remarks here. “When the president’s done, I will be, too,” she said.

“California’s a great place,” she added. “It reminds you of what life’s really about.”

Miss Rice’s return to academia would end, at least in the near term, years of speculation that she might run for California governor or president. It also would derail indefinitely her dream assignment, to be commissioner of the National Football League.

Several of her family members were present in the classroom Thursday, clearly part of what is pulling Miss Rice back to the state.

She often spends Memorial Day weekends with them in Northern California, but business forced her to skip last year’s trip, she said. She planned to stay in the area until tomorrow, cutting short the long holiday weekend ahead of a trip to Europe next week.

Miss Rice’s day took her and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to a string of sites from earlier in her career. They began at Stanford’s campus, then moved on to Hewlett-Packard Co., where Miss Rice once served as a board member.

They spoke to the students at the home of an education program Miss Rice and her late father helped establish 16 years ago. The Center for a New Generation offers after-school and summer programs for children in a school district about a half-hour south of San Francisco.

Miss Rice also agreed to a series of interviews with local press outlets, apparently part of an effort to burnish her image in this region. The State Department granted at least one of the interviews on the condition that the journalists focus their questions on Miss Rice’s education work, not on her current job — foreign diplomacy.

Paul J. Bains, who as pastor at Saint Samuel Church of God in Christ is active in the education program Miss Rice started, said it was widely understood here that Miss Rice will return. Her presence here was part of her “re-engagement in the community,” he said.

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