Campus & Community

Condoleezza Rice returns to DU campus

Condoleezza Rice enthralled a crowd at her alma mater April 2 in conversation with her former employee, Ambassador Christopher Hill. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Reflecting on memories ranging from her days as a “wayward and lost music major” at the University of Denver to the dark days after 9/11, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice enthralled a crowd at her alma mater April 2 in conversation with her former employee, Ambassador Christopher Hill.

Rice (BA political science ’74, PhD international studies ’81) is now an author and full-time professor at Stanford University. She returned to DU to teach a class at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and to sit on stage at the Cable Center for a public talk with Hill, who once worked in her State Department and is now dean of the Korbel School.

Although she came to DU to study music, Rice told some 700 students, faculty and staff members and guests that she realized early in her academic career that she faced a lifetime of teaching teenagers piano lessons or performing in department stores. Somehow, she said, there had to be more.

She found her purpose during an elective class in international relations. She changed majors and embarked on a career that saw her guide U.S. foreign policy from the optimistic early moments of the George W. Bush presidency to the crushing sadness of the 9/11 terror attacks and the uncertainty that followed.

“Sept. 11 changed everything,” she said. “Every day after, it was, ‘Don’t let it happen again.’ It was like going into a dark room and there were 12 doors, and someone could jump out of any one.”

Rice discussed the intricate nature of global negotiations and how there’s never a pat answer that can be applied across the board. While the U.S. occupation of Iraq seems to have left that country in a position to move ahead and develop a stable government, the situation in Afghanistan is vastly different, with an impoverished, fractured country that will continue to need help or risk regressing into chaos.

“Afghanistan is much harder. It was always going to be harder,” she said. “It’s the fifth poorest country in the world. These people have been bequeathed high mountains and rocks and dirt.”

Looking forward, Rice said she sees herself now as a professor and author. She said she has no interest in getting into politics or returning to government service.

Rice said she remains engaged and involved. She says she favors immigration reform that attracts the world’s brightest to the U.S. And she believes in education reform that includes work with after-school programs through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and other organizations. She plays benefit piano concerts for music programs in schools, and she works with corporations crafting policies for expansion abroad.

And above all, she is a teacher.

“I love being an academic. I love being at Stanford. As long as they’ll have me, I’ll be there,” she said. “I love my life.”

Condoleezza Rice’s visit was part of the campus event series taking place prior to the presidential debate on Oct. 3. Visit for a full lineup.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *