TAMPA, Fla. — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rallied the GOP faithful at the Republican National Convention with a barn-burner speech Wednesday night.
The only speaker of the convention thus far to take the podium without the assistance of a teleprompter, Rice spoke of the challenges facing the country, both foreign and domestic, and the need for a leader.
Commencing with an anecdote about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Rice transitioned to the economic crisis and turmoil abroad. She pointed out that around the world people ask “Where does America stand?” only to find that the answer is ambiguous. To Rice, the country is in need of leadership.
“I know too that there is a weariness I know there is a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough,” she said, noting that the country has no other choice by to be a leader, because “either nobody will lead and there will be chaos or someone else will who does not share our values. We do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead — and you cannot lead from behind.”
Rice asserted that Romney and Ryan are the ones who can lead.
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality our well being at home and our leadership abroad are inextricably linked. They know what to do. They know our friends and allies must be able to trust us. … And our foes can have no reason to doubt our resolve — because peace really does come through strength,” she said to cheers and shouts of agreement.
Rice touched on the need for free and fair trade, noting that while China has signed onto 15 trade agreements in recent years, America has only had three — all negotiated by the Bush administration.
She advocated for the energy independence and alternative energy obtained through the private sector.
“But most importantly,” she added. “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of our strength, the American economy — stimulating private sector growth and stimulating small business entrepreneurship.”
The former secretary of state added that in order to lead the world America needs to be able to keep its own economic house in order.
“When the world looks at us today they see an American government that cannot live within its means,” she said, broadening and tying the economic crisis to America’s foreign policy.
“They see an American government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come,” she added. “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 people to follow our lead.”
Rice spoke of American exceptionalism asserting that there is no barrier to success, not race, religion or nationality. “That it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going,” she said to deafening cheers.
She took on class warfare and entitlement, noting that Americans are not people of jealousy and distress, but a people of opportunity.
“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 jealous of one another and never been envious of each other’s success,” she said to more cheers. “Ours has been a belief in opportunity.”
Rice went on to explain that the centuries old American ethos is in peril from within and it will take hard work to right the course, not just with the economy but also secure borders with a sound immigration policy and quality K-12 education.
“If we do anything less, we condemn generations to joblessness and hopelessness and life on the government dole,” she said. “To do anything less is to endanger our global imperatives for competitiveness. If we do anything less is to tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement a turn toward entitlement and grievance.”
According to Rice, Romney and Ryan will be able to answer the question she says the world asks “Where does America stand?” noting that while times are tough the country has overcome hardships throughout history.
She added a personal note recalling her humble beginnings and eventual success.
“A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the segregated city of the south where her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they have her absolutely convinced that even if she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter she can be President of the United States, if she wanted to be, and she becomes the Secretary of State,” Rice said to more deafening, extended cheers of approval. “Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable — it took leadership, and it took courage and it took belief in our values.”
Rice concluded that the ones to lead are Romney and Ryan.
“That is why this is a moment and the election of consequence. Because it just has to be that the freest and most compassionate country on the face of the earth — will continue to be the most powerful and the beacon for prosperity and liberty across the world,” she concluded.