Condoleezza Rice Speaks to MSU Freshman

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Barely a week after speaking at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the stage at MSU’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse to deliver the 2012 Freshman Convocation Address.

Rice was welcomed to the stage by Student Body President Kiah Abbey and University President Waded Cruzado.  Abbey encouraged students to “live passionately,” and not to “live vicariously,” saying that ultimately, the purpose of a university is to “explore and collect experiences,” while Cruzado honored the freshman class.

During her speech, Rice stressed the “transforming power of education,” saying it gave her and her family the resources to succeed.  She stated that it would do the same for students in the audience, saying “as educated people, you will be given the tools, wisdom and experience to change the world.”

Rice used her foreign policy experience to touch on the major political events of the past decade, including the revolutions in the Middle East, stating, “Freedom has to be institutionalized to be democracy.”

In her speech, which was peppered with personal anecdotes, she further encouraged students to find their passions, get to know university faculty and give back to the community. “You are privileged to be at MSU,” Rice said, “never forget that.”

After her speech, Rice, a pianist, took the stage with cellist and University Honors Program Director Ilse-Mari Lee to perform “The Swan.” The duo also performed “America the Beautiful” while the audience sang along.

Rice served as the first African-American woman Secretary of State of the United States as well as the first National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2001-2005. An estimated 2,000 freshmen and 6,000 additional students and community members were present for her address.

Freshmen read Rice’s book, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People,” over the summer and the memoir will be used in freshman seminar classes to foster discussion.

According to Tracy Ellig, Interim Director of External Relations, convocation is meant to welcome freshmen to the university by “celebrating the beginning of the careers of students,” and to allow them to “form a bond with each other and the university.”

Convocation, now in its sixth year, is part of a university initiative to increase the number of freshmen that are retained through their sophomore year. According to Ellig, 25 percent of freshmen will not return to MSU for their second year.

Past convocation speakers include adventurer Aron Ralston, author of The Soloist Steve Lopez, and Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson.

“What a great opportunity for students to hear a very interesting and complicated political and historical figure,” Ellig said. “Opportunities like this don’t often come along to students in Montana.”