September 5, 2012

Condie Rice's Success Shows that America IS Still the Land of Opportunity

I don’t know if you could watch the Republican Convention (or if you wanted to.  Our kids DIDN’T!!!)  But there were a couple of notable speeches given by amazing people.  Today I want to highlight Condoleezza Rice and let you read her great speech.  I agree with Time magazine White House correspondent Michael Scherer, who said, "Condie's speech is the sort that gets collected in books, and studied by speechwriters." 

But first, let me give you just an idea of who Condie is.  As she mentions in her speech, she was born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama.  Although this segregation was intended to keep the blacks from feeling equal to the whites, Condie was unaffected.  Her deeply religious parents taught her that she was a child of God and capable of great things. They wouldn’t let her feel self pity at the obstacles placed before her and the other blacks of the era.  They encouraged her to take piano lessons and tutored her in school so that she excelled in both.  Ultimately she became a concert-level pianist and a world leader.

She had a passion for foreign policy and earned a Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Denver; a Masters in political science from Notre Dame; and finally a Doctorate in political science from the University of Denver with an emphasis on communist Czekoslavakia.  

She left Denver with her degrees and took a job as a Professor at Stanford University, teaching classes in political science, giving special classes on the Soviet Union.  Proving herself capable and wise, the school appointed her Provost when she was not yet forty years old.  A school leader said that they ignored that she was black, a woman, and very young—she was qualified!  The Provost oversees the financial resources of a university, as well as ensures that the students are learning and that the faculty is high-quality.  Inheriting a terrible deficit, Condie applied good sense and had the university back in the positive in just two years.  In fact, she created a surplus of $14 million!

After serving on the US National Security Council as an expert on the Soviet Union, she served as the National Security Advisor, a position she held when the attacks of 9/11 occurred.  You’ll notice how she starts her speech with that moment.  She was the first woman to serve in this position.  

President George W. Bush tapped her to act as Secretary of State, a position she held for 4 years.  She pushed hard to disarm the tyrants of the world and to help struggling democracies to succeed.  Her experiences in this post give meaning to what she says in her speech about freedom and world leadership.  Again, Condie was the first black woman to serve in this position. 

Condie shows us that making the best of our circumstances, combined with hard work and determination can propel us in amazing ways.  Perhaps her childhood of limited resources and discrimination prepared her well to help other nations become free and to remind Americans of that world role.   

Source:  Rice, Condoleezza.  A Memoir of Family; Extraordinary, Ordinary People.  2010:  New York.  Print.

1 comment:

  1. Melanie, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay. I've always said that if you prove yourself, the skin color doesn't matter. Sure, there we will have naysayers, but exercising true talent and networking are key to success. You're talented beyond measure.