Live Blog: Condoleezza Rice Visits BYU

There aren't as many people here at the BYU Marriott Center as when an LDS Church Presidents or the Utah Runnin' Utes come to town, but it's still pretty full for the forum featuring former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

There weren't as many protesters as I thought there would be for Ms, Rice's appearance. The only ones I saw were west of the BYU track (maybe they were required to stay off campus?), but they had some pretty colorful signs, the most creative of which was "WWJW--Who would Jesus Waterboard?"

It's unusual to have a forum at BYU on Thursdays, but to accommodate Ms. Rice's schedule, that change was made.

As Condoleezza Rice entered the basketball arena, the genteel crowd rose to their feet for a sustained but not raucous ovation.

11:05 AM - The crowd is still pouring in. It's beginning to look like this forum just might be as well attended as a BYU-Utah basketball game.  Many civic and church officials, including Jeanette Herbert, wife of Utah's governor, are on hand.  The prayer was given by a BYU student who happens to be the son of a former associate of Ms. Rice from the US State Department.

I recently read Ms. Rice's autobiography, Extraordinary, Ordinary People, which was charmingly written.  That which I found most interesting was that she became a very close friend of the Bush family, which explains to me perhaps why she stayed with the embattled George W. Bush administration.

FOr the past two years, Rice has gone back to Stanford University, where she was employed before joining the Bush administration. She says that she finds much greater enjoyment reading the newspaper these days, realizing that she doesn't anymore have to do anything to help solve the  national and world problems that fill its pages.

We are not judged, says Rice, by what we do today, but by how what we did is perceived over time. The task is to help ensure that history's judgment is right.

As to her politics, Rice identifies more with Alexander Hamilton rather than with Thomas Jefferson.  She keeps a picture of Secretary of State Dean Acheson on her desk to remind herself that no one ever asks the question "Who lost China?" anymore. She also keeps a picture of William Seward, whose "icebox" purchase--Alaska--actually turned out to be a good thing.

It is very "dangerous work" to "help failing and failed states heal".  When China forced an America surveillance plane down early in the Bush administration, Rice was not concerned about the prospect of war with China, because war is much more likely to occur when failed and failing states are involved--such as Afghanistan.  Which is why Rice thinks we need to not abandon Afghanistan again.  We also need to have a vision for the people of Afghanistan--that all men, women, and children should be able to live in freedom--in order for Afghanistan to succeed.

Advocating for democracy is practical. People must have a forum in which to resolve their differences peacefully.  As cacophonous as democracy is, it provides a safety valve so that violence is kept to a minimum. Authoritarian regimes fear the "Ceausescu Moment" when the reality of their inability to govern reaches critical mass. They must, therefore, perpetuate a regime of fear, because they have fear themselves.  The moment of truth is when the people fear them no longer.

The free market is creative, innovative, and willing to take risk.  Government?...not so much, says Rice.  When will China supplant the US as the global economic superpower? Although China has undergone a rapid economic transformation, bringing millions of people out of poverty, Rice thinks they won't overtake America, because it is terrified of allowing its citizens to have unfettered access to the internet.

The challenger to the United States for global dominance is "the United States gone bad", which does not reaffirm the free market and that democracy should be promulgated around the world.   Some people around the world love us, and some people hate us, but many are glad from time to time when the United States military will go where no one else dares to go.  They are also glad, says Rice, of our economic and religion-based strength to help the nations of the world in times of crisis.

The great American national myth (not necessarily untrue, but perhaps exaggerated) is that it doesn't matter where you came from, you can nonetheless do great things.   This "keeps us from the sclerotic demographics of Europe and the tragic demographics of Russia."  The great American myth is not only true and shared by those who live here, but many others around the world.

Rice praised the LDS culture, because family is at the core of our culture.  She spoke very lovingly of her own family, expressing gratitude for ancestors who "knew something about the transforming power of education," which has made all the difference in her life.

Unfortunately, in America today, Rice observed, we can look at what zip code a person comes from and have a pretty good idea of whether that person will get a good education.  She spoke of the "disastrous state of K-through-12 education", which is churning out many students who are unemployable.  It is destroying the American dream that we can come from humble circumstances and yet achieve magnificent things.

Rice is, nonetheless, optimistic, having associated with the rising generation of students at places like BYU and Stanford University.  She praised BYU for seeing that "faith and intellect are not enemies of one another".  She is grateful for a theologian father who encouraged her to debate and reason from the age of four.  It is fine to learn the gamut of human knowledge, says Rice, but it's important to remember that some of those things you cannot see.  Unfortunately, much of the world dismisses the value of faith in the learning process.

Rice encouraged those in attendance at the BYU forum to discover their passion and to act on it.  "If you're not careful, your passion might find you," she said, speaking of her great skill in piano performance, which was laid largely aside for a career in politics and academics. It took Ms. Rice several attempts and changes of her college major before she found her passion--international relations with a specialty in Soviet studies.  And she is grateful that her parents said "Wonderful! Go for it!"

"When you find your passion worlds will open up to you that you never thought possible", said Rice. Learn about languages and cultures.  Keep your optimism that the world is a wonderful place.  If we are optimistic, we don't have time to worry about those who have more than we do, and we won't develop an unhealthy sense of entitlement.  Aggrievement and entitlement rob you of the ability to control your own life and destiny.

Rice spoke of the darkness of Soviet and Eastern Bloc Communism, how during this time the Korean War broke out, and some Western European countries almost fell to Communism.  It was remarkable when it happened, Rice said, but now it seems to have been inevitable that Communism fell and that liberty is in the ascendancy around the globe.


  1. In short, she spoke vain and flattering words.

  2. Rice, like her boss President Bush, was in way over her head. I'm not at all surprised she's relieved to be out of Washington. As a Secretary of State, she made a pretty good piano player.


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