Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the country is not "race-blind" and "we shouldn't deceive ourselves that we're race-blind," but said the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president was a key moment in history.
"I think all Americans were quite taken with the fact that we were able, after the long history we've been through, that initial birth defect of slavery, that we've elected an African-American," Rice said in an interview taped recently on CBS' "Sunday Morning." "And that's enormously heartening for people in the country, but also people worldwide who still have trouble with differences."
Rice, who left segregated Alabama to eventually become the first African-American female to be secretary of state, warned that the United States still has problems with race.
"But I do think we've gotten to the place that we don't see a person and say, 'That's a black person, therefore they must be ...' And that's an enormous step forward."
Opportunities draw people here
Rice, who was Bush's national security adviser when the U.S. invaded Iraq and then became secretary of state in Bush's second term, said the opportunities that are available in the United States still draw people from around the world to this country.
"People, even in difficult economic times, still admire, maybe even envy a little bit, the entrepreneurship of this country and its capacity to be productive," Rice said. "But what really draws people to this country is that anybody can come here and go from modest circumstances to extraordinary achievement."
Americans aren't "united by nationality," she added. "We're not united by religion. You can be African-American or Mexican-American or Korean-American, and still be American. You can be Jewish or Presbyterian or Muslim or nothing at all, and still be American. But there are very few Americans who don't really believe that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going. And that's what unites us, and that's also what people worldwide find so remarkable."
Rice said she plans to write at least two books when she gets back to Stanford, one about foreign policy and one about her parents.
"I'm where I am today because I had great parents who believed that anything was possible and then who gave me every opportunity to prove that anything was possible," she said. "And I think that's a story that needs to be told, because it's in the context of that last group of parents before segregation ended in Alabama."
Confident in her work, despite critics
Rice said she isn't ready to think about how history will judge her as secretary of state.
"The legacy will be for historians years down the road. But what I will remember most is that I think we stood for freedom and liberty for everybody, not just for a few," she said.
But she is confident in her work in Washington, despite critics who have called the Bush administration one of history's worst.
Rice said the attitude about Bush's handling of Iraq would change for the better "when the final chapters are written and it's clear that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is gone in favor of an Iraq that is favorable to the future of the Middle East."
Rice, who golfs, enjoys watching football and plays piano, said she is ready to slow down, saying:
"I'm looking forward to getting up and not having so much of a calendar and reading the newspaper and not thinking I have to do something about what's in it."