Former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice told University of Mobile students that her Christian faith is inseparable from the decisions she makes, and is the source of her optimism in the face of difficulties.
A deeply religious person whose father and grandfather were ministers, faith is “so integral to me that I don’t even think of it as inseparable from anything that I do or any decisions that I make,” Rice told more than 400 students gathered for a Q&A session prior to the 7th annual University of Mobile Leadership Banquet on Nov. 10, which supports the school’s scholarship fund.
Students used social media including Twitter and Facebook to ask questions of Rice, a native of Birmingham, Ala., who became the first black woman to serve as Secretary of State during the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice, now a political science professor at Stanford University, fielded questions ranging from her most embarrassing moments to the one word she would want to be remembered by – “perseverance.”
Responding to a question about how faith factored into her role as Secretary of State, Rice said, “It’s not that you say ‘well, is this the right thing to do?’ It’s that you ask for guidance, are always aware that you have a higher power to which to appeal.”
She said faith makes you recognize how very fortunate and blessed you are, and to care about people who are not as fortunate or blessed.
“The best part about being a person of faith is that I could be continually optimistic even in hard times. When you go through very difficult times, I don’t know how people who can’t appeal to that Holy Spirit get through those hard times. I know as (Abraham) Lincoln said, ‘There are times when you have times where you have nowhere else to go than your knees.’ That is very deeply engrained in me.”
She encouraged students to use their college years to discover what they are passionate about.
“You have one really important task while you’re in college, and that is to find what you’re passionate about – not what job or career or major you want, but what are you passionate about?”
She told students to keep searching until they discover their passion and “when you find your passion, don’t let someone else define it for you by saying ‘you ought to be (this) because of your race, color, background or circumstances.’”
Then, “once you have found something you love, put your heart and soul into working and being really, really good at it,” she said.
Find a role model and mentor, she said. “Nobody does it completely on their own…Your role models don’t have to look like you. If I had been waiting for a black female Soviet (expert) role model, I’d still be waiting,” she said.
Later that evening at the 7th annual University of Mobile Leadership Banquet, Rice told the audience of nearly 900 that education is the great equalizer, and the University of Mobile is developing servant leaders who can be the optimistic leaders of the future.
“That’s what places like this are in the business of doing – transforming lives. Not just giving people a way to get a job, but giving people whole new horizons of who they might be and what they might do. Here at the University of Mobile, and other colleges of faith, (students) are taught to make that transforming leap through both faith and reason, that faith and reason are not enemies of one another. That, indeed, we are called to love the Lord God with our hearts and our minds, by Scripture,” she said.
Rice added, “Because the students here are taught to bring faith and reason together, they have a firm foundation not just of knowledge but of how to use that knowledge in a way that will advance the human condition. That is why the work that is done to make them servant leaders is also so important.”
Rice said the nation is going through difficult times, but she is encouraged because young people at the University of Mobile and across the nation are understanding that they should be devoted to something bigger than themselves.
“Our job is to tell them that it’s alright to want to think of and work for a world not as it is, but a world as it should be,” she said.
“If you are educating young people in faith and reason, educating them in servant leadership, educating them in the transforming power that that brings, then you are also educating the optimists of the future. The Lord knows we need optimism,” she said.
Rice said the world has been shocked, is chaotic, and cries out for leadership.
“Someone will lead. I believe, very strongly, that it had better be the United States of America that does…it is absolutely critical that this country which is, after all, the most compassionate, the most generous, and the freest on the face of the earth, will also be the most powerful. I firmly believe that, once again, we will make the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect,” she said.
Rice thanked the audience for supporting the University of Mobile and contributing to the school’s scholarship fund on behalf of its students.
“One day, they will show you that they will not accept the world as it is. And having done that, they will remake the world as it should be,” she said.
The banquet included entertainment provided by student ensembles in the Center for Performing Arts and concluded with a special presentation to Rice.
The university commissioned an original musical arrangement of three of Rice’s favorite hymns, arranged and performed by Assistant Professor of Music Duane Plash. The piano solo, titled “Testament of Hymns,” included the hymns “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” and “In the Garden.” Rice was presented with the musical score and a framed copy.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice speaks at the 7th annual
University of Mobile Leadership Banquet on Nov.
10, 2011. The event also celebrated the Christian
university's 50th anniversary year.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice answered questions from University of Mobile students
during a special Q&A session moderated by Neal Ledbetter, right, director of
campus life at the Christian university.
Assistant Professor of Music Duane Plash, left, performs a piano solo of "Testament
of Hymns," an arrangement of three favorite hymns commissioned by the school
as a gift to Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Rice and University of Mobile President Dr.
Mark Foley look on.