Friday, November 11, 2011

An Evening with American Leadership

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This week I went to a lecture at Baylor by myself.  It was a question and answer session with the university's president, Ken Star (you remember Ken Star from the prosecution of Pres. Clinton), and former Secretary of State under Pres. Bush, Condoleeza Rice.  For a few years now I have been enamored with Miss Rice's intellect.  I bought a copy of her new autobiography, No Higher Honor, which she was promoting during this visit.  It is a massive 784 pages.  I don't know when I will find time to complete reading this book.  But, I have begun it and it is very interesting. During the evening, Ken Star read excerpts from the book and Miss Rice expounded upon them.   It was definitely an evening to remember.  Here are a few poorly quoted excerpts from the evening.

1. Advent of a New War - On 9/11, as the president's National Security Advisor, one of Miss Rice's first few phone calls before rushing to the underground bunker was to call the Russian president and let him know that the U.S. was gearing up defense.  President Putin's response was in support of the U.S. and this was the first time Miss Rice, a soviet expert, knew that officially the Cold War was over. This was surprising to me, because the Cold War had been declared over publicly ten years earlier.  What did she know that the public does not know about the U.S. relationship with Russia?  Or was it that the Cold War was so ingrained in her heart that she could not let it go until then?

2.  The Hope of a Civil Society - Of course, she talked about the middle east and the sort of problems they dealt with.  She described the leaders and international problems.  Until now, I never really knew what counter-insurgency was until she defined it during her talk.  She discussed that they were faced with a unique problem.  They had to provide military, security, infrastructure, welfare relief and more all to create diplomacy and stability, all to help root out those who wish to do harm to the people within those regions and the U.S. alike.  In other words, the had to be on the defense and the befriend the locals. The goal was not necessarily to bring democracy to these areas the U.S. occupied, but to bring about civil society, in which those with power and freedom did not exploit the meek.  In the end, that may have manifested as democracy.

3. A Proud Moment - One day the presidential Cabinet was having a very serious discussion of whether to allocate $15 Billion to African Aids Relief.  They debated how they could justify such an expense.  Things that were discussed were such things as the fact that the relief would go where it was most needed and not necessarily where there were stable and responsible governments and therefore it may be misused.  Also, the antivirals are not a cure for AIDS they only extend life and was the expense worth it if they were not curing disease.  At that Miss Rice stepped in and said that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer when she was fifteen.  The treatment she received extended her life another fifteen years.  Those years were important.  She was there to be a role model for her daughter and see her daughter grow into a woman and be launched into life as a professor at Stanford.  Extending the lives of mothers in Africa will be important.  They will be there for their children longer and may make good impacts on the lives of others.  Following, the tone of the conversation changed.  It was a turning point.  Another cabinet member stepped and said, "If we are able to do this and do not, history will shame us for it." (Pro-life moment :-)

4.  Defining Faith - A defining moment in faith was when she attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  The three hour high Mass had completed, the bells began to peal, the pall bearers carried the casket to the doors of St. Peter's Basilica they turned and presented the glass casket to the crowd.  At that moment the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine shone directly on Pope John Paul II as if God were ascending his soul to Heaven.  It was an awe-inspiring moment.  At that moment, she had never in her life been so sure of the resurrection and the life eternal.  Later, Laura Bush asked if she had seen it too.  She was sure the press would report the moment, but nothing was reported.  A week later the Argentine president asked her if she had seen it as well.  It was then she thought, perhaps it was a moment only for the believers.

5. What Makes Us Great - Finally, it came time for questions from the audience.  They only allowed four questions, but this is where I felt she shined.  A female college student asked what advice she had for a young college female to gain the ranks she has achieved.   Her response was an old fashioned, All-American, pull yourself up by your boot straps response.  She said, "I am afraid sometimes that America is losing what made us great.  And that is it does not matter where you started or where you came from.  It matters where you are going."  America uniquely owns that.  We build ourselves up from nothing into becoming millionaires and presidents.  We get to define ourselves.  She continued, what I am afraid of in the new America is entitlement, when you are given, or demand something you do not necessarily deserve, something you have not earned.  Therefore, my recommendation is to not give into victimhood--when someone mistreats you because you are a woman or young.  Do not limit yourself by how someone else defines you.  If you grow up a black woman in the segregated south, it might mean you need to work twice as hard to get where you want to go.  Find mentors to guide you.  Be the best.  Work as hard as you need to achieve your goal, your American dream.

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