The Washington Post

Condi Rice portrait unveiled at State

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice studied her larger-than-life likeness for a few moments before turning to the intimate crowd with a wide smile and joining her former colleagues in applause for the painting.

In her official portrait, Rice’s hair is coiffed and she’s wearing a sleek red jacket and white pearl necklace. She appears to be holding the back of a chair  — much like another former secretary of state was recently photographed doing — lest anyone confuse it for a walker.

(Colby Itkowitz/The Washington Post)
(Colby Itkowitz/The Washington Post)

US Secretary of State John Kerry(R) smiles with former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during ceremonies to unveil the official painting of her that will hang in the State Department diplomatic rooms June 18, 2014, at the US State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

The luncheon reception for the big reveal Wednesday of Rice’s painting began an hour late because Secretary of State John F. Kerry was running behind. He told them he was “later than I have been, I think, at any moment, and it is simply because today the world could care less about the Secretary of State’s schedule.”

Guests included several notables from the George W. Bush administration like Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff; John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence and later deputy state secretary; and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was U.S. trade representative and later director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The media was shuffled out of the room before they feasted on mango-cucumber gazpacho, grilled wild salmon, and caramelized Virginia peaches over vanilla ice cream.

Kerry and Rice exchanged pleasantries and spoke of the legacy of the job and the challenges that faced, and still face, America and its role in the world. There was no direct reference to the escalating chaos in Iraq — although two former U.S. ambassadors to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad and Chris Hill, were in attendance. Rice did note that she, Kerry, Colin Powell and Hillary Rodham Clinton were part of an exclusive club of top diplomats serving after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The opulent portraits are a perk of the (sometimes thankless) Cabinet jobs. But Rice may have gotten hers in under the wire. Congress has decided the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent per Cabinet official painting is a waste of money. For Rice’s portrait, State set aside $52,450.

The fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill forbid all spending on portraits for the year, but the ban isn’t permanent. Five senators are sponsors of bipartisan legislation to cap portrait spending after this year at $20,000. If officials wanted a more expensive replica of themselves hanging at their former job, they could use private funds.

Rice, for her part, praised the presence of the portraits in the department as a reminder to current secretaries of the challenges faced by those who have followed in line after Thomas Jefferson.

“It’s not going to happen tomorrow, and indeed if you read today’s headlines you wonder if it’s ever going to happen,” Rice said, referring to long-fought conflicts abroad. “But let me just assure you that today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same.  And one of the reasons that these portraits are so important is that they remind us of that.”

That line was the closest she, or Kerry, got to referencing the mounting U.S. foreign policy woes.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
New Hampshire primary: What to expect
New Hampshire will hold a traditional primary just eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Polling in the Granite state has historically been volatile in the final weeks before the primary. After the Iowa caucuses, many New Hampshire voters cement their opinions.
The Post's Ed O'Keefe says ...
Something has clicked for Bush in New Hampshire in the past few days. What has transpired by no means guarantees him a top-tier finish in Tuesday’s Republican primary here, but the crowds turning out to see him are bigger, his delivery on the stump is crisper and some of his key rivals have stumbled. At the least, the developments have mostly silenced talk of a hasty exit and skittish donors.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.