Before starting her address at the University of North Texas, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Then she presented a message that included the challenges of global freedom and democracy, the importance of immigration reform, and how to deal with political discourse.
Rice, 58, addressed students, guests and members of the Denton community as part of the University of North Texas Distinguished Lecture Series on Tuesday night. The event, sponsored by the UNT Division of Student Affairs and the Multicultural Center, was held at the UNT Coliseum. Her speech lasted half an hour.
She spoke some about countries that are undergoing political changes and revolutions.
“Freedom and democracy are related, but they are not the same thing,” Rice said. “A true democracy is one where its citizens realize that they have not just rights, but they also have responsibility.”
Secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, Rice was the second woman and the first black woman to hold the position. She also was the first woman to serve as national security adviser, a position she held under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.
As she addressed the need for U.S. immigration reform, Rice said it did not matter where people came from, it mattered where they were going.
“Comprehensive immigration reform is at the core of who we are as Americans. This is a nation of immigrants and we forget it at our own peril,” she said. “There cannot just be a country for those who come here, but for those who are already here.”
Rice said her greatest childhood influence was her grandfather because he opened the path for everyone in her family to attend college. She noted that her aunt earned a doctorate in 1952, around the time of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.
“My family has been college-educated and Presbyterian ever since,” she said.
Close to 20 minutes into her speech, while Rice was providing advice to college students, protesters interrupted carrying signs and screaming “no blood for oil.”
“You know what? You are at a university,” Rice replied while other attendees applauded. “And at a university, we listen to different views.”
Born in Birmingham, Ala., Rice earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and a doctorate from the University of Denver. She received her master’s from the University of Notre Dame.
Rice currently is a professor of political science in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. She has been part of the Stanford faculty since 1981. The recipient of multiple awards for teaching, in 2011 she published No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington.
In August, Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore became the first women to become members of Augusta National Golf Club, which had excluded women throughout its 80-year history.
In discussing the state of the country’s political discourse, Rice called for people to be open and share their views, even if they may be controversial.
“You will never be able to defend your position unless you hear the other side,” she said. “And sometimes you may even find you’re wrong.”
During a question-and-answer session facilitated by Rudy Reynoso, chairman of the lecture series, Rice answered questions about leadership and the inconsistencies of social media and responded to a student who wanted to know if she would consider becoming the president of UNT.
“I would be honored; this is a great place,” Rice said. “[But] I kind of like California. I have been at Stanford for 32 years.
“Now obviously, Stanford hired me when I was 11,” she joked.
After the speech, attendee Joy Moonman, 20, a junior studying criminal justice at UNT, said she enjoyed listening to Rice’s address.
“I thought she was global in her thoughts and definitely spoke to more than a UNT audience; it was more for an international audience,” Moonman said. “I definitely thought the lecture had real-world application.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.