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Condi Rice loves Led Zeppelin and not being secretary of State

March 24, 2009 |  8:12 pm

Former secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 3-24-09

Stop the presses! Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice still reads newspapers! And she said it on TV.

And when she wakes up each morning now back in the Bay Area, Rice tells Jay Leno on tonight's "Tonight Show" on NBC, she's absolutely delighted to know she doesn't need to do anything about anything that's in it. (For our East Coast readers, if you hurry, you can still catch the entire interview.)

Jay expressed surprise. (See the video on the jump.)

"It was an honor to serve," Rice replied. "I love this country. There is nothing like being able to do this. And I know that people talk about America’s not this and America’s not that, but I’ll tell you something. Without America in the world, the most powerful country, but also the most compassionate country, the freest country, the world would be a much, much worse place. So I was grateful to be a part of that."

A former concert pianist, Rice says her favorite music is, what? She listens to it every time she's on the elliptical: "Then I can really be with Led Zeppelin."

But how did she go from music studies to becoming George W. Bush's foreign policy mentor, national security advisor and secretary of State? "I studied piano from age 3. I could read music before I could read, and my grandmother taught me to play the piano.... I went off to school and studied piano as a music major for a couple of years. And then I went off to the Aspen Music Festival, in the summer of my sophomore year.  And I met 12-year-olds who played from sight everything that had taken me all year to learn.

"And I thought, 'OK. You’re gonna end up teaching 13-year-olds ... Beethoven, or maybe you’ll play a piano bar or maybe you’ll play at Nordstrom, but you’re not playing Carnegie Hall. Find another career path.' ”

So she wandered into the international politics class of a man named Joseph Korbel, whose daughter turned out to be Madeline Albright, the first female secretary of State before Rice became No. 2 and Hillary Clinton No. 3.

Rice took the same path as her former boss, Bush, did in a recent speech in Canada, as The Ticket reported, declining to comment on the new Barack Obama administration. "My view is we got to do it our way," Rice says. "We did our best. We did some things well, some things not so well. Now, they get their chance. 

"And I agree with the president [Bush]. We owe them our loyalty and our silence while they do it.  Because I know what it’s like to have people chirping at you when they perhaps don’t know what’s going on inside. These are quality people. I know them.  They love the country. And they won’t make the same decisions, perhaps, that we did.  But I believe they’ll do what they think is best for the country, and I’ll give my advice privately and keep it to myself."

Scroll down or click on the "Read more" line to watch a brief video.

-- Andrew Malcolm

If Condi Rice and Jay Leno were here right now, they'd be reading The Ticket. Register here for Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item.

[Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Joseph Korbel as Joseph Corbell.]

Photo: Paul Drinkwater / NBC