WASHINGTON — An emotional Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reveled Wednesday in Barack Obama's election, calling it an "extraordinary step forward" for the nation.
A child of the segregated Deep South, Rice became the highest-ranking African American woman ever in U.S. government and was once considered a potential Republican presidential nominee.
She called the Democratic president-elect "inspirational" and said his victory was proof of America's promise.
"This was an exercise in American democracy of which Americans across the political spectrum are justifiably proud," she said.
"As an African American, I'm especially proud," said Rice, her eyes glistening with emotion, "because this is a country that's been through a long journey, in terms of overcoming wounds and making race" less of a factor. "That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.
"One of the great things about representing this country is that it continues to surprise," she told reporters at the State Department at a hastily arranged briefing just hours before she left Washington for a peacemaking trip to the Middle East.