By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received two standing ovations and her very own Mississippi State University cowbell at The Humphrey Coliseum on Tuesday.
In exchange, those in the audience got a one-hour tour of the globe and a personal challenge from a woman who was “at the center of world affairs for most of the past decade,” MSU President Mark Keenum said.
Rice said that decade included three shocks: Sept. 11, the Great Recession and the Arab Spring.
She said she knew terrorists were responsible when the second plane hit the Twin Towers. The attacks probably cost about $300,000 to orchestrate, and they shook Americans’ understanding of security, she said.
“If you were in a position of authority, every day after that felt like Sept. 12,” she said.
The second shock was the economic collapse of 2008.
“Our concepts of physical security and economic security were challenged,” she said.
The third big change on the world stage is still evolving, as people in the Middle East chart a course toward democracy after overthrowing authoritative regimes.
“It’s messy, it’s challenging, and it’s a little bit scary,” she said.
Some look at the process and see no hope, but Rice said she has a unique perspective.
“What were are seeing in the Middle East is what happens when people demand their rights,” she said.
The United States also has its challenges. She said the country has traditionally balanced the needs of individuals with a strong communitarian streak.
“It requires that individual citizens understand not just their rights, but their responsibilities, too,” she said.
She encouraged MSU students to take on those responsibilities, especially when it involves making sure everyone gets the opportunity to have a high-quality education. That’s particularly difficult in areas where race and poverty mix, she said.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” Rice said. “It matters where you’re going.”