In her primetime address to the Republican National Committee, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice laid out the broad challenges facing the United States in the century ahead.
“We gather here at a time of significance and challenge,” she said to open her address. “I will never forget the bright September day… when my young assistant said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.”
In a speech that tilted towards foreign policy, Rice pointed to ongoing global conflicts. “The promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty… dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people… and China and Russia prevent a response,” she said. “Where does America stand?”
Rice, using notes instead of a teleprompter, delivered a speech that was somewhat stilting, but natural, a contrast with the theatrical presentation of Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM), who spoke immediately after Stanford professor and former provost.
She also managed to sneak in a reference to the Stanford area while talking about the drivers of economic growth. “[Immigrants] have come to the world’s advanced societies… to help fuel the knowledge-based revolution in the Silicon Valley of California [amongst other regions],” she said to sustained applause.
Rice’s speech centered, however, on the immediate threat facing the United States both from at home and abroad.
“The American ideal is indeed in danger today,” she said. “There is no country… that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we fail to accomplish the tasks before us here at home.”
She made few references to either Republican talking points or their nominee: she only used Mitt Romney’s name five times and only obliquely attacked the incumbent president.
“We cannot be reluctant to lead, and one cannot lead from behind,” she said, echoing one of the most frequent criticisms of the Obama administration.
In emphasizing the need for immigration and education reform, Rice pointed to the economic effects of inadequacy in both systems. “We need immigration laws that protect our borders… yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants,” she said to raucous applause.
However, it was Rice’s personal story that may have drawn the loudest applause of the night despite the fact that convention planners had designed speakers around vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
“A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham… her parents can’t take her to a movie theatre or a restaurant,” she said to a standing ovation. “But they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be President of the United States and she becomes secretary of state.”