My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead — and one cannot lead from behind. —Condoleezza Rice
Back in June and July of this year, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suddenly jumped onto the radar as a possible vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney, and on Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, the rest of the world found out why.
In June, Mitt Romney held a weekend retreat for supporters in Park City, where big Republican names such as Rep. Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, Jeb Bush, Rep. Eric Cantor, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. John Thune and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gathered.
The speech that she gave at the Romney gathering was similar to the one she gave from the convention floor Wednesday — a speech that was praised in The Washington Post as "a hard act to follow" and called "spectacular," "thrilling," and "American," by MSNBC's Chris Matthews.
"I guess this is what the donors heard at that Romney event, creating the vp buzz," National Review's Rich Lowry tweeted.
"Yep," Commentary Magazine's John Podhoretz confirmed on Twitter.
The former secretary of state's speech at the convention focused on foreign policy, while also touching on ways to rebuild the economy and achieve the American dream and the need for education reform.
After terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the nation's sense of vulnerability and understanding of security was forever altered, Rice said. Then, with the addition of the 2008 global financial and economic crisis, uncertainty and failed policies cast a pall over the American recovery.
More recently, Rice said, "We have seen once again that the desire for freedom is universal — as men and women in the Middle East demand it. Yet, the promise of the Arab spring is engulfed in uncertainty; internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; china and Russia prevent a response and all wonder, 'Where does America stand?'"
"Indeed," Rice said. "That is the question of the moment — 'Where does America stand?' When our friends and our foes alike do not know the answer to that question — clearly and unambiguously — the world is a chaotic and dangerous place."
Since the end of World War II, America's position has been clear, Rice said — the country will stand for free people and free markets, and will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom. Although being that leader can be tiring, Rice said, if the U.S. is not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen: no one will lead, and it will foster chaos, or others who do not share America's values will step in to fill the void.
"My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead — and one cannot lead from behind," Rice said.
She encouraged the U.S. to choose leadership that will help rebuild the economy and put the nation back in control of its own finances while also opening the global economy, pursuing free and fair trade and working toward attaining energy independence.
The essence of America, Rice said, is the idea that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.
"It doesn't matter where you come from, but where you are going," she 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."
Rice said that as Americans, your greatest ally in controlling your response to whatever circumstances you were in was that of a quality education. However, she said, the current "crisis in K-12 education" is a grave threat to who Americans are.
The Romney/Ryan ticket will help rebuild the U.S. at home and inspire the country lead abroad, Rice said, and will therefore answer the question, "Where does America stand?"
"America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect," Rice said. "But of course it has never been inevitable — it has taken leadership, courage and an unwavering faith in our values."