Condoleezza Rice’s name has been in the news recently as she urges votes for Mitt Romney. She’s one of my heroes, and how a group of friends enabled me to attend a pricey breakfast is a story I’d like to share. Here’s how it all began.
It was the middle of winter in 2011 as I read the letters to the editor of the local newspaper. I came upon one that included negative statements about Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice was visiting our town as the keynote speaker for the Westmont College President’s Breakfast, an annual event.
My reaction to the letter? Delight.
Why delight? Because I had no idea she was coming to town until I saw that letter.
I had read Dr. Rice’s autobiography (Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, 2010) recently and wondered if I’d ever have the opportunity to meet her. My time had come.
I wrote a letter to the editor in response to the one that had expressed dismay at Dr. Rice’s upcoming visit. A few days later, there was my letter published for all to see.
For your entertainment, here are the two letters:
(His) January 18, 2011 — Rice a Poor Choice to Speak at College. I am disappointed to see that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — who I and some others see as a war criminal — is coming to my town. Westmont College has high admission standards, but I question its standards for speakers. Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world and within hours of 9/11, Ms. Rice was asking how the U.S. could pin the attacks on Iraq (she had to ask “how” because there was no supporting evidence). It’s no coincidence that Chevron once named an oil tanker after her.
(Mine) January 23, 2011 — Visit from Rice an Honor. Thank you to the Voices section for printing a letter to the editor about Condoleezza Rice that expressed the writer’s disappointment with Westmont College featuring her at its annual President’s Breakfast. Prior to reading that letter, I didn’t know the former Secretary of State soon would be honoring Santa Barbara with a visit. I put down the newspaper and headed straight over to Westmont’s website to obtain more information about the event. Here’s hoping I’ll be one of those with the opportunity to hear from this extraordinary woman who served her country well. I expect the event will be a sellout.
Well, the event was a sellout. In fact, the demand was so high that another room was added with a video screen set-up.
I contacted my friends at Westmont (I worked there for four years) and begged for a free ticket. No such luck. Tickets cost $100-$150, which was way out of my league. I couldn’t go, but I was happy to know that Dr. Rice would have a crowd of supporters in Santa Barbara that day.
Then the Cinderella story began.
A few days after my letter was published, I received an email from Westmont’s director of public events (my former co-worker and friend). A volunteer spot at the Breakfast had become available and she wondered if I would like to help.
“Yes!” I said before I even knew what I’d have to do. I didn’t care; I just wanted to be there.
It turned out that my job was to greet and direct the guests. I was to arrive at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort no later than 6:15 a.m. and be ready to play hostess for a group expecting breakfast at 7:00.
It was cold that morning, and the sun was just starting its rise as I drove onto the resort grounds. The Doubletree Resort is a beautiful place.
As I walked across the parking lot to the front entrance, I recalled what I had read in Dr. Rice’s autobiography: the troubles she faced as a black person growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1950’s and 60’s; her friends killed because of their skin color; and her parents encouraging her to persevere.
I’d be far off in another dining room, seeing her on a video screen, but I was okay with that. I was so proud of her, knowing what she had endured, that just being in attendance would be enough for me.
Little did I know then that Someone wanted to give me the desire of my heart.
End of Part 1, Click here for Part 2
Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.