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Rice: Education is key
Former Secretary of State speaks to packed Hanner
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Georgia Southern University students Kendra Young, 21, of Louisville, far right, and Ashley Akins, 20, of Brooklet, chat from the front row in front of a teleprompter screen before Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice takes the stage at Hanner Fieldhouse Tuesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a strong message Tuesday night as she spoke to several thousand people in Georgia Southern University's Hanner Fieldhouse: have integrity, have confidence, and get an education if you want to be a leader.
    Rice faced a packed gymnasium, and others on campus viewed her speech via simulcast at various locations.
    The topic focused on leadership, but Rice sprinkled a little wisdom on other topics throughout her delivery, including her view of world issues such as Afghanistan and other countries in turmoil; memories of 9/11 and why she decided not to pursue a career as a concert pianist, but changed her major to international politics instead.
    In speaking of international politics, Rice said "There is no greater (experience) than to serve this country ... to represent this country abroad ... and to know you are representing the freest, most generous, most compassionate ... and the most powerful (country)."
    In a brief press conference before the event, Rice spoke with a handful of reporters from various media outlets and touched on points she would later expound upon - "finding your passion;" leading by example and the situation in Afghanistan.
    She also fielded a question about her views on Obama when a reporter asked if anything "scared her" about the current administration.
     "We had our chance, we did what we could," she said. Adding that Obama's staff are sensible people who "have the country's best interests at heart ...  I owe them my silence."
    Rice also talked about the importance of remaining in Afghanistan and is concerned about talk of pulling  troops from the country. " We made that mistake before."
    She said America's problems faced today are "generational challenges" and recalled important peace events, giving credit for those successes to government in the past. "I was just harvesting good decisions that had been made before," she said.
    But then, Rice spoke of times that were not so peaceful, "and yet we ( the United States) stayed steadfast," she said. "We were determined to lead from our values."

Memories of 9/11
    Rice spoke of 9/11 during her delivery and again later when a question arose about the tragic day. She recalled being informed about the first plane crash into the World Trade Center, thinking it was an accident, only to realize after getting a second note that the second plane crash into the towers was a terrorist attack.
    The attacks were " something vicious, something hateful, and something definitely not just to terrorize us, but to bring us down."
    She recalled former president George W. Bush arguing with her about reversing his flight to Florida to come back to Washington. " I said, you can't come home, Mr. President. Washington is under attack."
    Bush had issued an order for any plane that could not properly identify itself  to be shot down, and for a brief time, several government leaders believed the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania had been a flight shot down by U.S. military, she said as she recalled the horror of that day.
    "I was grateful there was not another attack during the time I was in office," she said. "Vigilance against terrorism remains our most important goal."
    Rice spoke about the importance of freedom and how she feels the U.S. is obligated to help citizens of other countries be able to make their own choices in a democracy.
    "As we talk to ( citizens of other less fortunate countries) about hope, we do it from a position not of arrogance, but of humility," she said. Later in her speech, she said "If asked, not a man or woman would choose tyranny." When people complain about forcing democracy onto other countries, she said "We do not impose democracy - it is a choice."
    It is important to help " make sure ... failed and failing states ( countries) are not breeding grounds for terrorism," she said. "It is not powerful states that are dangerous - but failed states that are dangerous." These countries are where the dangers lurk - drug and people trafficking, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, she said.

"Find your passion"
    Rice told students to "find their passion" - discover what you enjoy doing and do it, doing it well. And when challenges arise, "Go back to principles. Go back to values. That's the only way you can lead."
    She spoke of an epiphany when she realized her dream of becoming a great pianist would not be in her future. "I was good, not great," she said. When she discovered her passion for international politics, she changed her major. That decision led to her position as secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration.
    Determination is also key to good leadership, she said, telling a tale about her grandfather, who was a sharecropper's son and decided to study to become a Presbyterian minister just so he could get a scholarship to complete college.  
    She also talked about the "American myth - the log cabin," which symbolized "you can come from humble beginnings and still do great things."
    Rice told the crowd that leadership is not just those in Washington, but in ourselves.  She said she subscribes to a "belief that a solution to our problems lies with ourselves - not always in Washington." That statement drew a round of applause from the crowd.
     About 250 students Georgia Southern University Vice President of Student Affairs Theresa Thompson called the school's "best and brightest student leaders" were seated directly in front of Rice's podium, and after the speech, Rice answered questions from students and citizens that were sent via e-mail, video clips or from the audience.
    Several of the students were from political science classes.
    Before hearing Rice, Katie Snyder, a 17-year-old freshman from Jacksonville, Fla. said she wanted to hear Rice speak because "This is an opinion from an important person. I'm just here to see what she has to say."
    Adam Daniel, an 18-year-old freshman from Roswell, said "I'm really into politics" and was looking forward to Rice's speech.
    After the event, Chas Bumgardner, an 18-year-old GSU freshman from Brunswick, said "I like her views on leadership and integrity. She was extremely motivational in my role as a future leader."
    Kenna Flannigan, 22, Valdosta, said she enjoyed Rice's message. "She was very interesting. I think she was very honest in her opinions."
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.  

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