In last week’s “Common Ground” dialogue, Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice disagreed on relations with Iran, but both said their parents instilled the need to be twice as good as everyone else in order to succeed. There was no comparison between the Common Ground event last fall, featuring Karl Rove and David Axelrod, and this one. The international affairs experts were not afraid to speak their minds, and that dynamic made their discussion interesting and engaging.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice covered a range of topics in U.S. foreign policy. of the Common Ground event held last semester: while they discussed, unfortunately they didn't truly debate. Despite that, they seemed far less scripted than Rove and Axelrod. Having had the pleasure of speaking with Axelrod and Rove beforehand, I noticed that they repeated certain phrases on the stage, making them seem scripted. This was also the feeling of many other students who attended. Axelrod and Rove had already planned what they wanted to say, and they stuck with it. This led to a relatively boring event.
Both Rices broke from this approach when it came to the topic of the Iran Deal. They had differing opinions and were not afraid to share them. They also brought their personal experiences into their analysis and debate. This is an example that Hamilton students should strive to emulate—as opposed to simply stating facts from our favorite news sources.
Condoleezza Rice came out in stark opposition, while Susan Rice, who had been closely involved in the deal, supported it. Condoleezza Rice thought the agreement with Iran would not make a difference in the long run. Susan Rice defended it by saying that its purpose was simply to stop the Iranians from becoming a nuclear power; that the deal was not meant to solve issues such as state-sponsored terrorism, but to work to prevent the development of a nuclear weapon from complicating other issues involving Iran. Condoleezza Rice responded by saying the deal wouldn’t even stop Iran from eventually acquiring a nuclear weapon.
With two national security heavyweights, the topic of Russia was unavoidable. Both agreed that Russia is a declining power, and that this makes relations with it all the more volatile. Their responses to the Russian problem differed. Condoleezza Rice used language that suggested a more hawkish view. She emphasized that aggression toward Russia is unnecessary however because it understands that the United States has the capabilities to “turn Moscow into a parking lot.”Susan Rice focused more on the future and the changing attitudes in Russia, especially among its youth. Both admitted the validity of each other’s views, playing to the theme of the event and series—common ground.
A question posed by a Hamilton student forced the guests to break away from national security and speak about their personal lives. They were asked what impact their race and gender had on their careers. Condoleezza responded by talking about her childhood and upbringing, remarking that she was taught to be twice as good just so she could be considered equal. Susan made this point as well. They both spoke to the issue of prejudice. They made it clear that prejudiced views they had encountered were not something they considered their problem, but rather the problem of the people holding such views. Their answers gave insight into the tough and resilient nature of these women, something we all should learn from.
From all accounts, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. Bringing two guests who in some cases held opposing views, and voiced them, created an environment that spurred debate on campus. The administration should continue to bring speakers who are willing to debate hot-topic issues rather than simply read a script. Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice provided a thrilling debate-like discussion that engaged the crowd and clearly fit the purpose of the Common Ground series.