Writing No Higher Honor, a memoir of my years in Washington, has afforded me the opportunity to revisit the historic and challenging events of my eight years of government service. I hope that, by reading the book, you’ll be able to develop a sense of whoI am--particularly, my determination to find solutions to sometimes insurmountable problems, a characteristic that helped me confront the immense challenges of being National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State.
The book begins with my last day at the State Department, but then quickly turns to this journey’s beginning--those first discussions with a certain Governor from Texas about joining his presidential campaign team. From there, my story continues and reveals the human side of our actions responding to the attacks on 9/11 and its aftermath. There’s no question that my years as National Security Advisor were shaped by these devastating events and our resolve to make sure that nothing like it ever happened again on our watch.
As National Security Advisor, I was staff to the President--rarified staff to be sure, but staff--and my life revolved around the President. However, in the second four years of the Administration, things were quite different. As Secretary of State, I was the senior Cabinet official and America's chief diplomat. I set out to repair the relationships with our allies and to reaffirm the primacy of diplomacy in our foreign policy. The President needed a renewed approach to the world and I was honored to lead this effort for him.
I loved representing America to friend and foe. I worked to mitigate crises, seek common ground among bitter enemies, and further agreement on sometimes very divisive issues. These efforts required me to build very interesting relationships with tough men such as Ariel Sharon, Vladimir Putin, Colonel Qaddafi and Hamid Karzai--and with conservative Arabs such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Shia clerics who couldn’t shake my hand because I was a woman.
As Secretary of State, I was also the face of America to the world. The fact that I am a black woman who grew up in segregated Birmingham was not lost on those with whom I dealt, and it spoke volumes about how far America--and I--had come.