Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice impressed students with her self confidence and commitment to education during Oct. 25 appearances in Charlotte sponsored by the Learning Society of Queens University.
In the first appearance, several hundred Queens students and others filled Myers Park Baptist Church’s Heaton Hall as Dr. Rice encouraged students to find their passion. She also discussed foreign policy and the U.S. position in the global economy with students and during an evening speech for the general public uptown at the Blumenthal Theatre.
“She emphasized that we need great teachers and that she would pay great teachers a lot of money because she viewed education as very important,” said Olympia Agnew, a junior biology major. “I think her message was very relevant to me because I want to teach high school, and she mentioned that being a teacher is a great, fulfilling profession, especially since teachers have the ability to influence students.”
Kathleen Wile, a senior thought symposium student, said she found Dr. Rice “very straightforward and real with the audience. I have never seen a speaker so confident and self-assured.”
Samantha Duke, also a senior thought symposium student, added, “I enjoyed most the manner in which she presented herself. She spoke calmly and confidently, so much so that I was hard-pressed to disagree with any of the statements she made, regardless of my prior thoughts on the subject.”
Teresa Gil, a senior psychology major, had a different perspective. “I wish I could have asked her about her view on the U.S. involvement with the drug cartel issues in Mexico,” she said.
Dr. Rice was asked many other questions during her visit. Queens Marketing and Community Relations department utilized social network Twitter to provide questions for her to answer live during the evening speech. Attendees were allowed to ask questions by passing written questions to ushers or tweeting @QueensUniv, Queens official Twitter handle, questions for Rice with the hashtag #Condoleezza.
It wasn’t the first time this was attempted. Students were encouraged to tweet questions when Fareed Zakaria IDENTIFY spoke in the Chapel but it wasn’t made well known so very few took part, according to Vanessa Willis, director of communication in MCR. This time the information was announced by moderator, Dr. Lynn Morton, the Dean of Arts and Sciences College, and shown on the screen right before the Q&A session began.
At both events, students in the Critical Thought Symposium, a year-long class dedicated to developing critical thinking and leadership skills using role play to address case studies, initiated the Q&A portion with their questions and before the session was opened to the general audience.
The Learning Society, a group of influential Charlotte locals who work to bring renowned speakers to Queens and the Charlotte area, brought Rice here.
During her speeches, Dr. Rice called the education gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world a complicated, troubling issue. “It’s puzzling and a little ironic that the United States’ tertiary education is the gold standard. There’s no place that people would rather send their kids than the United States of America.”
Talent, innovation and creativity will set the U.S apart from the rest of the world, she said.
Yet, she added, “the crisis in K-12 education may well be our greatest national security crisis.” If Americans are denied the ability to improve their lives through education, as she did when she moved from segregated Birmingham to Stanford University and then to one of the top positions in the U.S. government, “we will turn on each other. And we won’t be confident. And we won’t lead.”
Repairing the U.S. education system will be essential to America’s continued success, she said.
Several large, growing nations like China, Brazil and India are positioning to surpass the U.S as the leading global economic leader in the future, she warned.
However, each has its own problems to fix. Rice posed Queens students a thought-provoking question about China’s fear and rejection of the Internet: “If a country is so terrified of the Internet, can it lead the knowledge-based revolution? I think not.”