Condoleezza Rice speaks on racism and democracy at Bush Center

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George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush at the lecture. Photo credit: Farah Qutub

Condoleezza Rice’s story is one of perseverance.

Born in 1954, while Jim Crow laws were still in effect, she was taught she could do anything. She just had to do it twice as well.

“We are no victims. The moment you thought you were, you gave your life to someone else,” Rice said.

Just as Rice herself struggled and overcame challenges, the former Secretary of State discussed the global fight for democracy — the topic of her book, “Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom”Tuesday evening at the George Bush Presidential Center.

With a packed auditorium and overflow seating, more than 300 guests came to hear Rice speak, accompanied by former President George W. Bush and moderator Dana Perino.

“We’re still waking up,” Rice said. “America was born with a birth defect, slavery. Today, we’re still fighting a lot of struggles. You just have to keep working on it and that’s why America is the America it is today.”

She doesn’t believe democracy is in retreat, but explained that it’s never going to consistently travel in a positive direction. There will be setbacks, even when people fight for their rights.

While Secretary of State, Rice herself had to employ a number of strategies to promote democracy among other countries. At the time, she told the President of Saudi Arabia that they can’t grow if they remain constrained.

“I told him ‘you will never grow if you keep 50 percent of your population under wraps,’” she said.

Elections are the first step to democracy, Rice said, but not the most important. In 2015, Saudi women were able to vote for the first time in local elections. And in 18 months, Saudi women will be able to drive.

Between one to two percent of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign alliance, which seeks to promote American values. Values Rice believes should be universal.

“Democracies don’t fight each other, harbor terrorists or invade each other. Democracies support each other,” she said.

At the end of her lecture, Rice answered questions from the audience. Namely, confirming that she will never run for office again.

Lecture attendee Becky Connatser said she is a longtime Rice supporter who’s constantly inspired by her work for progress.

“I wish she were Secretary of State today. Scratch that…I wish she were the president.”

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