Condoleeza Rice Addresses Overflow SHRM Crowd

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice kicked off the 2012 Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference with a talk before an overflow crowd at Atlanta’s World Congress Center Sunday afternoon.

Rice addressed several thousand SHRM conference attendees for about 25 minutes by discussing the differences between being “in government and out of government,” saying she enjoyed no longer having responsibility for what’s in the newspaper.

The talk turned serious as she discussed the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as other attacks in Yemen and Somalia, and how those changed the concept of national security. Rice also touched on how the nation’s concept of “prosperity” and “economic security” was shaken in 2008, and how countless people have wondered “whether they will ever be employable again.”

The former Secretary of State went on to discuss the social and economic change that the world is witnessing in China alongside labor unrest. While China has made enormous progress, she noted that the country’s first response to product safety scandals was to “execute the head of product safety,” something Rice joked, she did not advise as a good HR practice.

Rice then turned back to the US, saying she “didn’t know when immigrants became the enemy. She added, “If we don’t find a way to educate our kids, [especially those most at risk], the United States of America will not only lose its competitive edge, but it will lose more.”

“It shouldn’t matter where you came from,” said Rice. “It should only matter where you’re going.” Nonetheless, Rice asserted optimism that the US will continue to lead, and that the world will move more and more to prosperity and freedom.

Following her remarks, Rice sat down for an extended one-on-one live interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. Rice told O’Brien, “You cannot control your circumstances, but you can control your response,” noting that she was told by her parents growing up that she had to be “twice as good.”

Some interesting nuggets from the conversation:

  • Rice’s first dream was to be a concert pianist. She could read music at age 3.
  • She loves being called “Condi,” saying when someone calls her Dr. Rice she looks around to see if her father is around.
  • “It’s great to find a role model who looks like you, but if I had waited for a black female Soviet specialist, I would have waited a long time!”
  • Rice said she loves policy. She does not love politics, dismissing thoughts that she’ll run for elective office.
  • The former Secretary of State calls herself a “passionate Cleveland Browns” football fan.

Rice’s most revealing remark, though, came when she said that whatever happens with immigration, it must happen federally.

“You can’t have one immigration policy in Arizona, and one nationally,” Rice noted, in a not-to-subtle jab at the trend of some states going beyond the federal government in cracking down on undocumented workers and those that employ them.






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