(CBS News) Today is inauguration day, a quadrennial celebration that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called "really the high point for any presidency" on CBS This Morning.
"The first thing that strikes me on a day like today is what a wonderful celebration this is of our democracy - the peaceful transfer of power," Rice said. "It's something that, when you've traveled around the world, not every country can take this moment for granted."
Asked what she is hoping to hear from President Obama's inaugural address, she said, "I would hope the president would use the opportunity to say, I've won the election, but this is now for all Americans to move forward together. Not everyone agreed with the president's agenda in the election but he won it fair and square, and now it's a question of reuniting the country around some big issues, perhaps around immigration, around getting our fiscal house in order."
Overall, Rice said, she hopes Mr. Obama projects "A kind of humility and reaching across the aisle."
And Rice predicted big challenges for the president's second term. "The Middle East is going to be the biggest challenge," she said, noting that "The malignancy of Al Qaeda is spreading into other parts of the world."
She also said that Obama must "try to find a way to make the Arab Spring, about which we were all so hopeful just a little while ago, start to bear fruits for democracy and tolerance."
The veteran diplomat also offered her advice on how Obama should tailor his speech for audiences foreign and domestic. "In the Middle East, the sense that perhaps the United States is not as active, is not as central in the unfolding events in the Middle East - there needs to be a strong statement about that"
She also urged Obama to address "Concerns among our allies that the pivot toward asia means a pivot away from Europe and the middle east."
And "to the American people," Rice said, Obama must say, "We have to stay engaged, we don't have an option to leave the stage."
"Yes, perhaps we're a bit weary, yes we have our own problems," she explained, "but American leadership is needed in this world, it's desired in this world, and without it, neither our interests nor our values will be well served."
Rice also addressed the coincidence of the inauguration and the federal holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.
"I think of how far this country has come, but I think of the need to continue the reconciliation of the birth defect that was America's slavery," she said. "We still have a long way to go, we're not yet race-blind. People still suffer in poverty and poverty and race and a poor education is still a very bad combination."
"We have a lot of work to be done, but my goodness, how far this country has come," Rice marveled.