Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ‘s remarks Aug. 29 at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., as prepared for delivery:
Good evening. Distinguished delegates, fellow Republicans, fellow Americans.
We gather here at a time of significance and challenge. This young century has been a difficult one. I will never forget the bright September day, standing at my desk in the White House, when my young assistant said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center — and then a second one — and a third, the Pentagon. And then the news of a fourth, driven into the ground by brave citizens that died so that many others would live. From that day on our sense of vulnerability and our understanding of security would be altered forever.
Then in 2008 the global financial and economic crisis stunned us and still reverberates as unemployment, economic uncertainty and failed policies cast a pall over the American recovery so desperately needed at home and abroad.
And we have seen once again that the desire for freedom is universal — as men and women in the Middle East demand it. Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty; internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; China and Russia prevent a response; and all wonder, “Where does America stand?”
Indeed that is the question of the moment — “Where does America stand?” When our friends and our foes, alike, do not know the answer to that question — clearly and unambiguously — the world is a chaotic and dangerous place. The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer — we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them — we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.
To be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I, like you, know the sacrifices that Americans have made — yes including the ultimate sacrifice of many of our bravest. Yet our armed forces remain the sure foundation of liberty. We are fortunate to have men and women who volunteer — they volunteer to defend us on the front lines of freedom. And we owe them our eternal gratitude.
I know too that it has not always been easy — though it has been rewarding — to speak up for those who would otherwise be without a voice — the religious dissident in China; the democracy advocate in Venezuela; the political prisoner in Iran.
It has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies — or to help the world’s most desperate — the AIDs orphan in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia; the world’s poorest in Haiti. Yet this assistance — together with the compassionate works of private charities — people of conscience and people of faith — has shown the soul of our country.
And I know too that there is weariness — a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough. But if we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen — no one will lead and that will foster chaos — or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead — and one cannot lead from behind.