Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it is time for America to fight the “four horsemen of the apocalypse:” populism, nativism, protectionism and nationalism.
Rice, who served as America’s highest-ranking diplomat, spoke to a crowd of over 1,500 Buffalo community members in the Alumni Arena Wednesday night. She discussed differences in foreign policy during the Bush and Trump administrations as well as domestic issues like the public school system.
Rice was the first African-American provost at Stanford University, the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor and the first African-American woman to become Secretary of State.
She spoke to students on the importance of finding mentors throughout their career. Rice said most of her role models were white men because that was the demographic that dominated her field.
“If I had waited for an African-American Soviet specialist, I would still be waiting,” Rice said.
Rice grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents told her that the way to combat racial prejudice was to work twice as hard as everyone else.
“You have to be twice as good,” Rice said, quoting her parents. “That will take care of a lot of your problems.”
She encouraged students to use their college years to find their passion and not just their next job. She started her college career as a piano performance major but changed it after taking an international relations course.
Rice also addressed grades K-12 and the American education system which she said needs reform as it “fails to educate the lower class.”
“No more third graders who can’t read,” she said, adding that there shouldn’t be college graduates without any job skills. “The greatest national security threat that we face is [our current] K-12 education system.”
Rice warned against anti-globalism and said the “four horsemen” that caused WWII are present in America today.
“The problem is that those who believe in an international system that was built after WWII, somehow don’t like to admit that one reason the four horsemen are riding again is that there were some who didn’t benefit from the great globalization.”
A group of roughly 20 students protesting the event greeted audience members outside Alumni Arena. UB’s Young Democratic Socialists of America coordinated the protest against Rice’s role in the Iraq war.
“She is very directly responsible for crimes against humanity and the death of many Iraqi citizens,” Samantha Nelson, a freshman biochemistry major, said.
Omran Albarazanchi, a junior chemical engineering major who was born in Iraq, said he was “disappointed” in the Student Association, which sponsored Rice’s speech.
“I don't have a problem with her to speak but to have her as a distinguished speaker was really disappointing,” Albarazanchi said.
A Q&A session moderated by UB Dean of school of Law Aviva Abramovsky followed the speech.
Albarazanchi felt the Q&A session was “filtered” and said he was upset he was unable to ask questions about the Iraq war.
“We weren’t allowed to ask about the big elephant in the room,” Albarazanchi said.
During the session, Abramovsky asked most of the questions. Only one student asked a question: Sophonie Pierre-Michel, the elections coordinator for the Student Association.
Alec Herbert, a sophmore political science major, attended Rice’s lecture because of his interest in international relations.
“I know a lot of people were upset that Condoleezza Rice was coming,” Herbert said. “But I don’t really care. Personally, I'm just interested to hear what somebody who was secretary of state had to say, whether I agree with her personal viewpoints or not.”
Herbert said Rice’s speech seemed “well received” by the crowd and that her political commentary on the Trump administration was interesting.
“During her speech she did make a few digs at Trump, but during the Q&A she backed off a bit and defended some of the things he did,” Herbert said.
At the end of her speech, Rice said her “thoughts and prayers” would go out to the friends and family of UB student Sebastian Serafin-Bazan, who died earlier Wednesday after an alleged hazing incident.
“I know how hard it is, because I am also part of a campus community,” Rice said. “University communities, we hold each other close at times like this and I know [UB] will.”
Isabella Nurt and Tanveen Vohra are editorial staff and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Isabella Nurt is a junior film production major. She is keen to get off campus and cover underground topics in the greater Buffalo area.
Tanveen Vohra is a former senior news editor and covered international relations and graduate student protests.