In the midst of many global challenges, America must work to continue promoting its ideals of freedom and democracy, said the nation’s first black female secretary of state.
Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state from 2005 to 2009 under former President George W. Bush, delivered the Ambassador Dave and Kay Phillips Family International Lecture to a sold-out Page Auditorium Tuesday. In addition to her remarks, she also engaged in conversation with Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy and director of the American Grand Strategy program, and took questions from the audience. Rice spoke about the difficulties of developing international policies and affirmed America’s position as a dominant world leader.
“The great promise of a time like this—when the world is remaking itself—is that it will remake itself for the better with American leadership,” said Rice, who also served as the national security adviser from 2001 to 2005.
Sophomore Daniel Strunk, a member of the University’s American Grand Strategy Undergraduate Advisory Council, said he was inspired by Rice’s remarks, adding that her speech was the best he has heard in his time at Duke.
“What resonated with me was her life story’s example to everyone that circumstances cannot define you as an individual,” Strunk said. “Rather, you can define your own circumstances in life.”
In her remarks, Rice highlighted three challenges that have fundamentally changed the international system over the past 10 years.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks caused the U.S. government to rethink national security, Rice said, adding that failed states, such as Afghanistan, constitute national threats.
“We had to completely remake the concept of internal security,” she said.
Additionally, the global economic crisis of 2008 undermined the American concept of prosperity. The United States and countries across the globe are still adjusting to the newfound instability in the global economy, she said.
She added that conflicts in the Middle East spawned by the Arab Spring also pose significant challenges to international policies—civilians are increasingly holding authoritarian governments accountable for their actions.
Rice cited immigration as essential to America’s technological success, as well as to its cultural prosperity.
She said she regrets that Congress failed to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The bill was introduced by current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and gained bipartisan support from Bush and several prominent senators, both Democrats and Republicans.
“When did immigrants become our enemy?” she said. “Immigrant culture has renewed us—it has been at the core of our strength.”
The most ambitious and risk-taking innovators from all around the world are attracted to America not only because of its economic prosperity, but also because of its reputation as a diverse and accepting nation, she said. But the nation must focus on continuing to attract foreign thinkers in an increasingly competitive global economy.
Rice also stressed the importance and opportunities of higher education, citing her own educational experience. She entered the University of Denver as a piano performance major, but soon realized her talent was not sufficient to sustain a music career. After exploring her academic options, Rice discovered a passion for international relations and the Soviet Union during an international politics class.
“Find what you’re passionate about—what is it that makes you get up in the morning?” she said. “Your job in school is not to find your job, but to find what you are passionate about. Once you find your passion, everything else falls into place.”
Freshman Nicholle Romero, who has yet to select a major, said she was inspired by Rice’s courage to explore different academic pursuits.
“She represents someone who goes into the world expecting one thing and comes out a leader in an entirely new field—that is something to look up to,” she said.
Rice emphasized the importance of curiosity, noting her admiration for Bush, who read five books for every one book she read during his presidency. She also encouraged students to take advantage of the numerous opportunities at their disposal and to appreciate their education.
“I hope that in getting this great transformative experience, you’re not taking it for granted,” Rice said. “It’s not that you’re entitled to what you have. It’s a blessing that you have it.”
Rice presented a new vision for foreign service, emphasizing a shift from simply reporting events on the ground to active and compassionate field work.
She highlighted the importance of contributing to the international community because a stable global community improves the nation’s security. She noted that 1.5 percent of the nation’s budget is currently allocated to foreign assistance.
“I wish Congress would listen when she says we’ll need resources if we’re going to make a difference and change lives in other countries,” said William Lucas, diplomat in residence at Duke.
Rice also affirmed Iran’s threat to global security, calling the nation a revisionist power. She noted that all options, including military intervention, should be on the table in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. She added that the Iranian government’s funding for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas is a major reason that the country should not be allowed to develop a nuclear arsenal.
Rice said American citizens should refrain from questioning President Barack Obama’s claim that military intervention is a viable option. She added that it was important that the president, the American people and the Iranian government all believe that claim.
“My concern is actually not so much about President Obama’s [willingness to use military power], but I do worry about all the chatter around him,” Rice said, speaking out against those who publicly question Obama’s potential use of military force.