NEW YORK (Reuters) - Grilled by elementary school children on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice replied that she would not run for president, slept for 6.5 hours a night and was not afraid in war zones.
At the tail end of nine days of diplomatic niceties at the U.N. General Assembly, Rice took time out to visit a Harlem school in a rare foray into domestic policy.
The children at New York’s Public School No. 154, the Harriet Tubman Learning Center, were decidedly direct in dealing with the top U.S. diplomat, peppering her with questions including how it felt “to be a lady with such a powerful job.”
“Sometimes you don’t feel all that powerful,” Rice said ruefully.
Another student wanted to know whether Rice, whose work has taken her to Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan, is afraid to visit war zones. “I wouldn’t say that I am afraid to go to those places. I have (people) who take very good care of me,” she said.
Rice, a Republican, teamed with Rep. Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat whose district includes the school in Harlem, the long-time black section of the city, touring two classrooms and speaking at an assembly that included a long question-and-answer session.
The purpose of the visit, Rice aides said, was to highlight a well-regarded school that has blossomed in part because of funding from private sources.
Rangel, who chairs the powerful House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee that writes tax policy and oversees big government programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, teasingly suggested Rice aim for the White House.
“The Republican ranks for president are still open,” he told students. “We might be able to make some news this morning.”
“Charlie, don’t start,” Rice said.
Later she told the students: “I don’t think I am the kind of person who will run for president, no.”
Having the secretary of state visit their school, with her muscular security agents in tow, spooked one student.
“Her security might kill me if I ask one question or come two feet near her,” said 10-year-old fifth grader Miles Figaro.
“We’ll prove that that’s not true. ... You come here,” she said, giving him a hug to laughter and applause.