In one of the best-received speeches of the Republican National Convention, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reflected on where America stands in the world, the greatest civil-rights issue of our time, and how a girl who couldn’t sit at the “white’s only” lunch counter grew up to be the world’s top diplomat.
“I know too there is a wariness. I know that it feels as if we have carried these burdens long enough,” Rice said of the world’s woes from oppressed nations to AIDS orphans in Africa to sex trafficking victims in Southeast Asia. “But we can only know that there is no choice, because one of two things will happen if we don’t lead. Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values.”
“My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice,” she stressed. “We cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind.”
Rice advocated moving forward on free trade, military capability, and energy independence. “Most importantly, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of our strength, the American economy — stimulating private sector growth and stimulating small business entrepreneurship,” she said. “When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means.”
She said America’s narrative has never been one “of grievance and entitlement.”
“We have never believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have never been jealous of one another and never envious of each others’ successes,” Rice said.
“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.