About the Speaker: Condoleezza Rice is the former U.S. Secretary of State and Professor of Political Science at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She as authored numerous books including the bestseller Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family (2010).
No Higher Honor: A Life of Leadership
The world changed after September 11. “Your concept of physical security changes forever.”
The global economic shock of 2008 changed perception about financial and economic security.
The third great shock was Arab Spring. This reminded us that authoritarianism is not stable.
Today “We are seeing the universality of freedom.”
“But with freedom, with rights come responsibilities. Stable democracy requires more than the institutionalization of rights. It also means understanding that the strong cannot exploit the weak. And this isn’t just the work of government. Government can only do so much. The strong have to hold up and bring the weak along, to be stronger. This is true wherever you are in the world.”
And then she stressed: “Every life is worthy.”
“In a democracy nobody is condemned to the circumstances in which they were born. If every life is worthy, everyone has the potential for greatness.”
People, not governments, deliver compassion. “Delivering compassion is the work of people who believe that every life is worthy.”
“Perhaps the greatest opportunity of leadership is helping people see their own leadership possibilities.”
“I’m convinced that the greatest trait of a leader is that they are an irrepressible optimist. Nobody wants to follow a sour puss.”
But how do you stay optimistic in difficult times?
She says it dawned on her during the difficult days in her political career that it must have seemed as difficult in many other times. “Today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same.” If you play to the headlines, she says, you won’t achieve anything of lasting value.
(For the believer, there is Friday…but then comes Sunday.)
She gave many examples from history and her own life of how those who fought against the odds triumphed, and how struggle holds the potential to transform.
“It is a privilege to struggle, and out of struggle comes victory.”
And one of my favorites: “Think of all those times when what seemed impossible became inevitable.”
“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a leader in challenging times.”
And she concluded with this:
“We as leaders can make the world not as it is but as it should be.”