Yesterday, Secretary Rice participated in a conversation with PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra K. Nooyi and CNN News Anchor Campbell Brown at the Women's Conference in Long Beach, CA. During the discussion, Secretary Rice spoke about role models, future plans, women's empowerment, and why education is a national security issue. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:
MS. BROWN:You touched on this a little bit right when we started: education. And we were talking earlier about how important that is to you and something you want to focus on in your next life.
SECRETARY RICE: Right. Afterwards, yes.
MS. BROWN: But more and more women today, we know are earning advanced degrees. The downside to some of the research is – there was one report out recently that girls are dropping out of high school at rates almost as high as boys, particularly girls of color. And what struck me is when you and I were talking earlier, you described this as a national security issue.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
MS. BROWN: Education.
SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely.
MS. BROWN: What do you mean by that?
SECRETARY RICE: I think the state of education, K through 12 education in our country, and frankly for underprivileged kids, the appalling state of education is a national security issue. (Applause.) You know, I’ve long been an educator and it breaks my heart that there could be very talented kids who might be the next Nobel Prize winner in the United States in chemistry or the next great composer in America, and they’ll never get discovered because they’re trapped in some public school that is just basically warehousing them. That makes me very, very sad.
But I’ll tell you, as Secretary of State, it makes me terrified. Because I know that if we cannot do better in educating our people – and I mean all of our people – then we are not going to be competitive in an economy, a global economy that is very competitive, where the numbers of engineers and scientists in other countries are outstripping the numbers that we train in the United States several, several fold. And if we can’t compete and if our people can’t compete for the highest level jobs, we’re going to be protectionist, we’re going to turn inward; the United States is not going to lead.
But there’s something more important. You know, I – Charlotte Shultz, George Shultz’s wife, I just ran into backstage, and George Shultz is one of my great mentors. And George told me, he said, “Being Secretary of State is the greatest job in government.” He should have just said, “It’s the greatest job,” because you get to represent this extraordinary country. I really love America for what it is. And you go out and you represent the United States and you recognize that what people respect about the United States – yes, our military strength, yes, our economic power – but really the values that we espouse.
And by that I mean that people really do believe that this is a meritocracy, that you can come here from anyplace, from India or from Africa or from Latin America, whether you are the person who makes your way across the desert to make five dollars instead of fifty cents, or whether you are the founder – one of the founders of Google, Sergey Brin, who comes from Russia and founds Google here. People believe that in America, you really can succeed on merit.
It’s also a part of our national myth. And look, a myth is not something that’s not true. It’s a part of who you are. And what is our national myth? The log cabin. You can be born in a log cabin and you can still be president. But the only thing that makes that true is equal access to education for everybody. It’s the only thing that makes it true. (Applause.)
And you know, in a great multiethnic democracy where we are not bound by blood, where we’re not bound by nationality, where we’re not bound by religion, you can be Christian or Jew or Muslim and – or nothing at all, and be American. You can be of African descent or Mexican descent or Indian descent and be American. The only thing that binds us together is the belief that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going. And if we can’t keep that true for every American, we’re going to lose who we are, and then we won’t lead. And so it is, for me, the most pressing national security issue.
Read the full conversation.