On the heels of Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s book release, No Higher Honor, SC Johnson brought Dr. Rice to Racine. I won’t go into the specifics of how I managed to get an invite...I was not on the original list...but suffice to say I got an invite and was able to attend the dinner where Dr. Rice was the keynote speaker.
The Marriott’s Grand Ballroom was a perfect setting for this 250-person dinner. Fisk Johnson started off the evening presenting Dr. Rice with a cheese head and autographed Packer helmet as well as a few good stories. After dinner Dr. Rice talked for about 45 minutes.
She focused on the three major economic shocks to the world markets in the past 10 years: 9/11, the 2008 recession and Arab Spring. The latter, in her opinion will have the longest lasting effect on the world.
“If men and women can’t change their government peacefully they will do so violently” and that “anger is a terrible way to make real reform,” she said. “Democracy is a moral cause” and “we should advocate and care for those that are born outside of it.”
Dr. Rice discussed how freedoms of religion, speech and ones-self are worthy objectives “unless they are enshrined in a constitution and protected by the rule of law these freedoms can be taken away.” She cited an example of an Iraqi who had traveled outside of the county only to come back and have his citizenship revoked. However, the new Iraqi constitution protected him and he was able to retain his citizenship.
“We as a country are the most individualistic, but the most communal," since we are all driven to do what we all wish. But are willing to pull together when times call for it? She cited the generosity of those philanthropic individuals and organizations that are willing to do what it takes to provide for people that are less fortunate.
Dr. Rice concluded her remarks saying, “The greatest national threat facing this county is the current K-12 system.” We need to fix the system and ensure we educate our children to protect them for the future.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice was witty and urbane sharing personal stories of her grandfather and her time in college as well as a few items from her experiences in the White House. She also stressed the importance of having a passion. At the end she took a few questions before departing for the evening.
Here are a few of the questions asked:
Q: What language would you recommend high school students learn?
A: “Any!” But she did point out that the harder languages, Chinese and Arabic, are in high demand.
Q: What do students need to do to be successful?
A: “Get kids into activities they enjoy. This is beyond studying hard, which are the first three things on the list”
Q: What do we do to improve K-12?
A: “Whatever is necessary. Pay good teachers more. They are underpaid. Bad teachers need to be shown a new career. Set standards high for children” She continued by stating that we need to get kids into good schools by whatever means possible including, but not limited to vouchers. Additionally it is important to stress that there are right and wrong answers.
Q: I bought some Condi for President buttons on eBay in 2008. Any chance I’ll get to use them?
A: “Put them back on eBay and sell them as a novelty.”
Thank you to SC Johnson’s for bringing Dr. Rice to Racine. It was truly an amazing night.