U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. presidential election held on November 4 was an example for the world in how a nation can overcome internal differences. Rice spoke at the 15th anniversary of the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston Thursday. VOA's Greg Flakus was there and filed this report.
In her remarks, Secretary of State Rice addressed the importance of the recent U.S. presidential election for the world and for the United States. She noted that people in far away nations had followed the election campaign, even learning about the Iowa caucuses, which started the process in early January. She also spoke of the significance of Barack Obama becoming the first person of African descent to become president, saying that the United States had shown how democracy can help erase divisions between races and ethnic groups.
"[For] A girl like me who grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama to now elect an African-American president is an extraordinary matter," Rice noted, "and it says to the world that differences can be overcome and in a world in which different is still a license to kill, that is an awfully important message."
As she prepares to leave her position as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice says there are two matters of unfinished business that concern her more than many of the foreign challenges facing the nation. The first, she said, is the need for comprehensive immigration reform so that, as she put it, "people living in the shadows can achieve legal status to live and work in this country." She said anti-immigrant attitudes could undermine one of the things that has made America great.
"Unless we can renew that spirit of wanting to be open to those who want to be part of us, we lose a part of who we are," Rice said.
Rice said the other concern she has for the United States is the state of education. Noting her background as a college professor before becoming a government official, she said she has always believed education is the means for a person from a modest background to achieve great things. Rice said the nation's failure to provide a good education could limit its future.
"It breaks my heart as an educator, but you know, as secretary of state, it terrifies me," she admitted. "Because if we are not able to educate our people, I can assure you we will turn inward, we will protect, we will be afraid of the world. And that will be a disaster for the world because America will not lead if we are not confident that our people are able to compete."
Secretary of State Rice said the world craves American leadership and looks to this country as a place of endless possibilities. She says that makes a domestic issue like education important as a foreign policy issue as well, because education is the key to fulfilling the American ideal that what matters most is not where someone comes from, but what they are able to achieve.