Students split over Condoleezza Rice as Boe Forum speaker



When two planes struck the World Trade Center on September 11, Condoleezza Rice was serving as the U.S. national security advisor. Reflecting on the attacks a year later, Rice remarked in an CNN interview, “We’re in a new world. We’re in a world in which the possibility of terrorism, married up with technology, could make us very, very sorry that we didn’t act.”

Now, sixteen years following those remarks, Rice will discuss “America’s National Security and the World” at Augustana on March 20 for the 2018 Boe Forum on Public Affairs. 

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Each year, the Center for Western Studies (CWS) selects experts from fields that are relevant to current issues or events. After people voiced concern about changes in America’s national security, the CWS Executive Director Harry Thompson said the CWS began searching for candidates with backgrounds in government and foreign policy.

“Two or three names came up, but Rice’s name rose to the top,” Thompson said. “She was the first African-American female secretary of state and national security advisor and had risen to the chancellorship at one of America’s most prestigious universities [Stanford University]. She has a stellar academic background in addition to her political background, and those are all things that leaned us towards her.”

President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who served in the House of Representatives while Rice was secretary of state, said she was excited when she discovered Rice was a potential candidate for the Boe Forum. 

Recalling a meeting at the White house where she observed Rice discuss strategies of war in regards to Iraq, Herseth Sandlin said, “To observe such a strong woman and what she brought to that discussion, I felt fortunate to have worked with her. I feel gratitude that someone of her caliber and her approach and her ability to hold her own and have commanded the respect of President Bush years prior to that. She was such an important voice during that time in our country’s history.”

Other reactions to Rice, however, have been more mixed. While some students are excited to hear the former secretary of state speak, others are skeptical.

“The things I want her to talk about are so polarized, she will not talk about them,” sophomore Sara Birhe said. “There’s such a huge stigma right now that Condoleezza Rice is going to come to campus and she’s going to be middle of the road. I want the real issues talked about, I want things that are honest concerns of the people.”

image8 (2)Former president of Augustana Republicans and 2017 graduate, Cara Beck, was the initial person to recommend Rice as a candidate for the Forum. 

In response to potential student disapproval, Beck said she feels anytime a speaker affiliated with a political party comes to Augustana, there is bound to be tense reactions. 

However, she said she hopes students will be welcoming and willing to listen to her ideas and experience nonetheless.

“I realize Rice is conservative and worked for President Bush, but I know she is someone who is very level headed,” Beck said. “She has a lot to offer.”

Both seniors Tia McKillip and Sophie Geister-Jones said although they may not agree with all of Rice’s past decisions, they are still interested in hearing her speak. 

“Even though I’m not fan of Condoleezza Rice, I think she’ll bring interesting ideas,” Geister-Jones said.

“[I’d like her to talk about] what precedent was set for the role and legitimacy of institutions like the UN, which is seen as a failure in letting Iraq happen or failing to stop it,” McKillip said.

While the topic of the forum is on national security, just what specific security issue Rice will talk about is unknown, although several topics on the table include China, Russia and North Korea.


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