News Column

Condoleezza Rice Inspires With Leadership Address

March 22, 2013

Kevin Parrish

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice, a former U.S. secretary of state, is comfortable with her place in the world and in history.

Rice, 58, delivered Thursday's keynote address at a forum, Advancing Women's Leadership. She used her address to inspire the 2,500 people inside the Alex G. Spanos Center, 600 of them high school and middle school students. Ninety percent of the crowd was female.

Rice said:

Find your passion: "Do what's right for you and not others' expectations."

Work hard: "There are struggles in life you will have to overcome. My parents told me to be twice as good as others."

Find a role model: "A mentor doesn't have to look like you. They can be of any color, any age, both genders. My role models were all white men, old white men."

Be fearless: "Seize moments that come your way. One of mine was at Stanford. At 38, I was asked to be provost. I was challenged, but I learned. Make leaps early in life. Cross the chasms. On the other side, you'll find you're capable of more."

Rice sprinkled humor, insight into the human condition and post-9/11 details into her talk.

She also knew her audience.

A noted sports fan, Rice started her address by congratulating the Pacific Tigers' men's (NCAA) and women's (NIT) basketball teams on post-season tournament appearances.

Her address ranged from details about growing up in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1950s and 1960s to quiet, cherished moments serving as the nation's 66th secretary of state.

A classroom instructor at Stanford University today, she also used her Stockton appearance as a teaching opportunity.

"Freedom and democracy are not the same," Rice said. "Democracy enshrines our rights and creates the political rules. 'We the people' didn't mean me when it was written, but the (U.S. Constitution) is remarkable in being flexible and capable of including more people. 'We the people' now means women and former slaves.

"The document continues to evolve."

She also spoke about the moral and practical reasons for being concerned about women's rights across the globe.

She said nations that fail to provide women with equal opportunities "are dangerous."

"Every country has to fill out their picture of how they use full human potential," Rice said. "They better be sure to empower women."

She pointed out that history has a long arc and those who might second guess Bush administration decisions after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would do well to remember that "today's headlines and history's judgments are never the same."

The forum started with an address by 44-year-old Christy Haubegger, founder of Latina magazine, and a Hollywood producer.

She talked of the lessons learned from failure ("pick yourself back up"), from taking care of yourself ("life is a marathon"), from being true to yourself ("women are still pioneers in leadership") and from decision making ("figure out how to measure your life's impact").

Two Stockton sisters -- Lorena and Celeste Sanchez, 13 and 12 respectively -- attended the forum as guests of the Stockton Boys & Girls Club. They were impressed with Rice.

"It was interesting. I like when she was talking about never giving up and being prepared for failure. Keep trying. That caught my attention," said Celeste.

Lorena, who said she was to attend Pacific one day, said Rice inspired her to find her passion.

Thursday's program also was tied to the presentation of a Global ATHENA Leadership Award to Rice. The nonprofit organization is devoted to "supporting, developing and honoring women leaders."

Arizona resident Martha Mertz, founder of ATHENA International, presented the award to Rice. "Stockton is in its 26th year of presenting a local ATHENA award. You are to be congratulated," Mertz said.

The program concluded with a conversation between Pacific President Pam Eibeck and Rice.

"No man, woman or child wants to live in tyranny," Rice told Eibeck. "I know it may be naive, but I'd rather be naive than cynical. I want to see the Earth as it ought to be, not as it is."



Source: (c)2013 The Record (Stockton, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.