At USF, Condoleezza Rice Talks Trump, Putin, and Hacking

By ED CARPENTER, USF NEWS Posted Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:17

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes President Donald Trump is about to get a lesson in how government works — and it's likely to surprise him. 

"Just wait until he realizes that for the wall [at the Mexico border], there have to be environmental impact studies," said Rice, during the inaugural USF Silk Speaker Series event at McLaren Conference Center Jan. 28. 

The realization is likely to be a wake-up call to a newly elected president who has no government experience and is intent on moving quickly ahead on initiatives that require the support of multiple agencies, she said. Environmental impact studies can take years.

"Pretty soon, he's going to think, 'What did I get myself into?” said Rice, who served as the first African American woman Secretary of State from 2005–09 and currently serves as the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

From Jim Crow to the White House

For just over an hour, Rice charmed the sellout crowd of about 500 with self-deprecating humor and stories from her glass-ceiling-breaking career. 

Moderator and alumnus Jeff Silk '87, who was key to creating the speaker series to bring prominent leaders to campus, guided Rice through a series of questions. The two discussed her time growing up under Birmingham, Alabama’s segregated Jim Crow laws; her mentorship under Madeleine Albright's father, a Soviet specialist at the University of Denver; the shift in America's sense of security after Sept. 11, 2001; and Russian hacking and President Vladimir Putin. 

"I know Vladimir. I know him quite well," said Rice. "He would say, 'Condi, you know us. Russia has only been great when it has been ruled by great men, like Peter the Great and Alexander II.' That's who he thinks he is," Rice explained.

She warned against lumping all Russians in with Putin, however. America must continue to reach out to the Russian people who we have a great deal in common with, while at the same time being firm with Putin. 

Don’t let others define you

Asked by School of Management Dean Elizabeth Davis what advice she'd give students in the audience, Rice was ready.

"Your most important task in your four years in college is to find something you're passionate about," Rice said. "Not what's going to be your job, not what's going to be your career, but something that's going to make you want to get up every day and go do that. And don't let anybody tell you that shouldn't be your passion. I mean, why on Earth should a black girl from Birmingham, Alabama want to be a Soviet specialist? Don't let anybody define your passion by the color of your skin or by your gender."

Know someone with a powerful USF story? Let us know! usfnews@usfca.edu Twitter @usfcanews