Condoleezza Rice and Me at the Doubletree: Part 1

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.

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

13 Comments Write a comment

      • My cousin read your post on facebook and is anxiously awaiting “Part II.” I love it when you post and I enjoy your perspective very much.

        Reply

        • That’s so nice of you to say. Let your cousin know that I’ll have Part 2 out soon!

          I thought of you and your blog when I was reading the new book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me. The author, Mrs. Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent, was raised in North Dakota. When he saw the Carlyle Hotel in New York for the first time, he wrote about being just a poor boy from “wheat country” and that the highest structure was a grain elevator. When he saw the hotel, he thought, “That would sure hold a lot of wheat.” Loved it!

          Reply

          • Thank you for your kind comment. It’s neat to hear about the secret service agent–I will have to read his book. Grain elevators became the most characteristic element on the prairie. I couldn’t imagine Nebraska without them. But think of what it must have been like for our pioneer forbears when instead of a distant landmark to mark their progress, all they saw was an endless sea of uncut prairie grass. I’ll take a plain white elevator or even a farm silo any old day. What they faced was frightening.

            I will look forward to your next installment, and I will certainly share it. Thanks for writing one of the most interesting blogs on the web.

            Reply

            • Oh, I just love to write and I’m glad that you find it interesting. I still have in mind that photo that I took from your website for a short story.

              It’s hard for me to imagine flat land, period. I’ve lived in California all my life (I was less than a year old when we got here) and I haven’t traveled much. I’d love to visit every state in our country. Every one is like its own little country.

              I think you’d enjoy Mrs. Kennedy and Me. It was fascinating to read about the work of a Secret Service man. He’s the one you see jump on the back of the car after JFK was shot and covers them.

              Thanks for reading my work!

              Reply

    • Coming soon! Watching tomorrow night’s presidential debate will throw off my writing schedule, so it’ll most likely be Tuesday before I post Part 2.

      Reply

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