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Rice Talks "American Exceptionalism"

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Katie Couric in New York, Dec. 3, 2010.
Don Pollard/CFR
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Katie Couric in New York, Dec. 3, 2010.
Don Pollard/CFR

Last week, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was interviewed by Katie Couric at the Council on Foreign Relations as part of its Home Box Office History Makers Series.

(Scroll down to watch the full interview.)

Rice served as Secretary of State from 2005 until the end of the George W. Bush administration in 2009.

She's currently the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Rice reflected on American exceptionalism, her time in the Bush Administration, her childhood in the South, and how her life has changed out of the public eye.

"I still believe that the United States is exceptional in its conception, the American idea, no tie of nationality, ethnicity, religion to the territory. It's exceptional in the way that it has integrated people from around the world for generations. It's exceptional in the way that it's been willing to fight for the rights of others, even when they didn't know their names. You know, any ordinary country might not have stormed the beaches of Normandy to fight for the liberties of those people. And so, yes, I do think there's an exceptionalism," Rice told Couric.

But she added, "I am very concerned that some of the essence of what has made us that way is fraying. First of all, one of the reasons that the United States is exceptional is we've integrated people from all over the world. And when I listen to the immigration debate in the United States, it's a country I don't recognize. We can't possibly live with 12 million -- 10 (million) to 12 million people in the shadows. They're not going home. Who are we kidding?"

"Something's really wrong in our immigration policies," Rice said. 

Rice called Bush's "decisiveness" his greatest strength. She added, "it was married with a bedrock belief in the goodness of America, and indeed the exceptionalism of America - that America had certain responsibilities that it had to execute on behalf of all of humankind, whether it was fighting terrorism or trying to deliver democracy."

Rice told Couric that her approach to foreign policy was based on the principle that "human spirit can overcome essentially anything if given a chance."

A sidebar bit of baseball trivia - Rice's mother was a school teacher who once taught legendary baseball player Willie Mays.

Watch the full interview below.