Today, living in an elegant apartment at the Watergate complex in Washington and afforded all the luxuries as Secretary of State, Condi Rice, a descendant of slaves, has never forgotten the experiences of her childhood.
How did it shape her world view?
"Well, growing up in the South and having people underestimate you because one of the reasons for segregation, one of the reasons for the separation of the races was supposedly, the inferiority of one race to the other," she explains. "And so when I look around the world and I hear people say, 'Well, you know, they're just not ready for democracy,' it really does resonate. I hear echoes of, well, you know, blacks are kind of childlike. They really can't handle the vote. Or they really can't take care of themselves. It really does roil me. It makes me so angry because I think there are those echoes of what people once thought about black Americans."
It's the same argument she uses to defend the difficult war in Iraq and the Bush administration's goal of spreading democracy around the world.
Has she ever doubted herself or her ideology?
"I just believe in the power of these values. And I know how tough it is. And I know what Americans see on their on their screens," Rice says. "But in all great times of testing, in all great times of challenge there are doubts. And these challenges are going to be overcome."
She is said to be closer to the president than any Secretary of State in more than 50 years and is legendary for her loyalty. When Mr. Bush appeared on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the message was "mission accomplished in Iraq," Condi Rice was there, ever the loyal soldier.
"You used your credibility to rally the American people behind this. Now it turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction. Do you regret using that?" Couric asks.
"I don't regret at all overthrowing Saddam Hussein," she replies.
"But that's not the question," Couric remarks.
"Do I wish the intelligence had been better? Absolutely. I have wished every day since we learned. The idea that somehow because the intelligence was wrong, we were misleading the American people, I really resent that," Rice says.
"I really resent it," Rice says. "I resent it, because the administration was using the best available intelligence. And so everybody thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He'd used them, for goodness' sake."
"You have conceded that lots of mistakes have been made in Iraq. Vice President Cheney says if he had to do it again, he'd do it the same way. Do you agree?" Couric asks.
"Well, I would certainly do it again," Rice says.
Asked if she would do it the same way, the secretary says, "Nobody can go back and reinvent the past. We can't do it, Katie."
"But you can learn from your mistakes," Couric remarks.
"I'm enough of a historian to know that things that look like brilliant policies at the time turn out to have been really stupid. And things that looked like mistakes at the time turn out to have been brilliant policies. I'll let history judge those things," she says.
In the time 60 Minutes spent with the secretary, an exercise session was one of the few moments we found her alone. She works out six days a week, starting at 5 a.m., often to the music of Led Zeppelin or Cream.
But it's classical music that really moves her. As often as she can, she gathers a group of four friends for an afternoon of Schumann or Brahms. And, no surprise, every piece is followed by a debriefing.
"It's hard to imagine my life without music. I certainly find it as a way to completely transport into another world," Rice explains. "I've been asked – you know, 'Is it relaxing?' And I say, 'Well, it's not exactly relaxing, struggling with Brahms.' But it is transporting. You're just in another world. Life is much fuller when I've got my music."