Posted November 6, 2012

Condoleezza Rice greeted warmly at STAFDA

by Rich Vurva

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was greeted by a standing ovation as she prepared to give her keynote address at STAFDA’s annual Trade Show and Convention in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 5.

Condoleezza RiceHer 30-minute talk focused on how three “great shocks” have changed how Americans perceive the world today.

The first shock, the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001, have “forever changed our concept of physical security,” she said. The second shock, the global financial and economic crisis that started the Great Recession “changed our concept of economic and financial security.” The third shock, the Arab Spring, demonstrated the instability in the Middle East as people in that region of the world strive for greater freedoms.

In the aftermath of these three great shocks, Rice said, “It feels dangerous and chaotic when a country does not stand up and lead. For 70 years, that country has been the United States.” In the past few years, Rice said, that voice of leadership from the U.S. has been muted. “The United States cannot sit on the sidelines. If we do, someone who does not share our values will lead.”

She said that a lack of strong leadership results in a loss of confidence at home, which impacts our ability to lead abroad.

Rice also told the story of growing up in Birmingham, Ala., during the turbulent Civil Rights era when she was denied access to the same restaurants as white children. Yet her parents conveyed a sense of hope and pride by telling her, “You can come from a humble background and do great things. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going.”

She called the crisis in K-12 education the most basic threat to the nation. She said that we must ensure that children of every social and economic background have an opportunity to develop the self-reliance that comes through education. “It is not Washington and the government that has made us strong; we gain our strength as a nation from men and women, person by person, working through the private sector to achieve growth.” The private sector rewards risk taking, innovation and creativity, three attributes that are lacking in government, she said.

“We have never had a narrative of grievance in this country,” Rice said. “A narrative of grievance results in envy and a sense of entitlement, which is the death of innovation, creativity and risk taking.”

She said that we need to reignite the great American narrative. “America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable. We need to rebuild confidence in ourselves and rebuild confidence in America as a leader,” Rice said.