Rice: 'We Do Not Have a Choice — We Cannot Be Reluctant to Lead'

"We have been successful, too, because Americans have known that one's status of birth is not a permanent condition," she said. "And your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going?"

Rice called the crisis of underprivileged kids trapped in failing schools "the civil rights issue of our day."

"And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham. The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state," Rice said.

"America has a way of making the impossible seemed inevitable in retrospect, but we know it was never inevitable," she said. "It took leadership. And it took courage."

Update: Video of Rice's speech added.