Condoleezza Rice RNC Speech: Tampa Convention Highlights Strengths of GOP Women


My good friend Sally and I had just set off for our 5:30 AM daily power walk on Thursday when Sally opined that she didn’t feel Paul Ryan’s VP acceptance speech was “inspiring." Sally and her husband did not “tune in” until Paul Ryan started speaking — which is too bad, because if she wanted inspiration, she had to get there earlier.

While a lot of attention was paid to Ann Romney's speech, the women who truly shone at the Republican National Convention were politicians like Condoleezza Rice, Kelly Ayotte, and Susana Martinez. As their speeches at the RNC demonstrated, these women represent a bright future for all American women in politics.

Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, offered a lesson about the intersections of American domestic economic strength and global security which was more scholarly and heartfelt than partisan. The elegant Stanford University professor, spoke without a teleprompter. In her speech, she noted that our well-being at home and our security abroad are intrinsically linked and argued that we must rebuild the foundation of our strength: our economy.

"I know too that there is weariness, a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough." Rice said. "But if we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen — no one will lead and that will foster chaos, or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum." 

The speech, which may prove to be one of the best in the election year, was punctuated by Rice’s personal reflections on growing up in the “Jim Crow” southern city of Birmingham, Alabama. But she emphasized that her parents made her believe that only in America anything was possible.  She could, indeed, become Secretary of State — or perhaps even president?

 As a woman of a certain age, I believe both Condoleezza Rice and the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s protestations of disinterest in running for the presidency. But I also believe that this week, we’ve seen a few Republican women who just might give the “good old boys” a run for their money in 2016 or 2020.

Susana Martinez, the Governor of New Mexico, and first Latino woman governor, is a true daughter of the West.  Since 2010, she’s balanced the state’s budget, cut the deficit and held the line on taxes. Martinez is a former prosecutor who specialized in child abuse and child murder, a three-term District Attorney, and proudly handy with a Smith and Wesson 357 Magnum pistol.

Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, is the daughter of immigrants. She is the first woman and second Republican governor of Indian descent (the other being Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.) Haley is proud to lead a state that excels in making things, and is a leading voice for states' rights.

And then there's New Hampshire’s junior U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, who was rumored to be on the short list of vice presidential candidates for Mitt Romney. New Hampshire is a state of small businesses, including her husband’s. In her speech, she described the difficulties small businesses experience in the current regulatory environment and uncertain economy without rancor or resentment. Ayotte is the former Attorney General of New Hampshire, and proud to be pretty handy with a snow plow.

None of these women come from wealth or privilege. They all achieved their success because of educational opportunity, hard work, and strong families. (With the exception of Rice, each of these women is also a successful wife and mother.) They are not angry, even if they are frustrated. They don't feel aggrieved.

All of them have demonstrated that on the field of ideas, the arena of policy, and the business of governing, they can go to-to-toe with any man, compromise across the aisle for the greater good of all their residents, and void the old stereotype of the 'pushy broad."

Listening to their speeches at the RNC reminded me of why I am optimistic about the future of women in American politics.