Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice started her speech in Tampa Wednesday night in front a roaring crowd on a humbling note. She shared her memory of September 11, 2001 and pointed out the struggles America has faced in a new century.
"This young century has been a difficult one. I will never forget the bright September day, standing at my desk in the White House, when my young assistant said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center – and then a second one – and a third, the Pentagon. And then the news of a fourth, driven into the ground by brave citizens that died so that many others would live. From that day on our sense of vulnerability and our understanding of security would be altered forever," Rice said, continuing on with discussion of the 2008 financial crisis.
Although Rice didn't mention President Obama by name, her description of a need for Mitt Romney to lead and promote a stronger America in all areas ranging from the eononmy to foreign policy, told the entire story.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of American strength – our economy – stimulating private sector led growth and small business entrepreneurship. When the world looks at us today they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead," she said. "When the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful political and economic experiment in human history. That is the true basis of “American Exceptionalism.” The essence of America – that which really unites us -- is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion – it is an idea -- and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going."
The biggest applause of the night came when Rice stressed the importance of American leadership in the world out front, not from behind, when she hit back against class warfare rhetoric, promoted education reform and told her personal story about growing up in the segregated South.
"If we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen – no one will lead and that will foster chaos --- or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead – and one cannot lead from behind," Rice said. "Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have not believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have not been envious of one another and jealous of each other’s success. Ours has been a belief in opportunity and a constant battle – long and hard -- to extend the benefits of the American dream to all – without regard to circumstances of birth."
(photo: Jonathan Garthwaite)
"My mom was a teacher – I have the greatest respect for the profession – we need great teachers – not poor or mediocre ones. We need to have high standards for our students – self-esteem comes from achievement not from lax standards and false praise. And we need to give parents greater choice – particularly poor parents whose kids – most often minorities -- are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights struggle of our day."
"And on a personal note– a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America - her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant – 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 the Secretary of State."