Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shared the principles of her leadership style before thousands in South Barrington Thursday, adding she believes her personality is better suited to public service than the elected politics some are considering for her.
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The summit, which is broadcast live by satellite to more than 200 other locations in North America, brings together leaders from a variety of fields to discuss not only what they do but how they do it. Though Rice is best known for her work in the public sector, this year's summit is focusing most on leaders of the business world.
Rice said the defining characteristic of a true leader is that he or she never accepts the world as it is, but strives always to make the world as it should be.
When this principle is applied -- often at great personal cost -- it can make a reality that once seemed impossible look inevitable in hindsight, Rice said. This is the principle that drove the transformative stories of such people as Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Lech Walesa in Poland, she added.
Even for herself, growing up in segregated Birmingham, Ala. and losing a classmate to a racially motivated bombing, the idea that she could grow up to become secretary of state once seemed impossible, Rice said.
Now, she's been mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, an idea she's rejected.
Asked by Willow Creek Senior Pastor Bill Hybels why she isn't considering the possibility of becoming U.S. President right now, she playfully corrected him by saying "not ever" was the term she'd used.
"I love policy, not politics," she said.
She described her experiences of accompanying former President George W. Bush on the campaign trail and seeing how differently energized he was by that particular form of public service.
Despite the tumultuous events that have defined the world during both her time in office and the years since, Rice talked about the faith in God and faith in people that sustains her belief that things will get better.
Though 9/11 changed traditional notions of physical security and the banking crisis of 2008 changed ideas about financial security, Rice found great hope in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.
She said these strengthened her existing feelings about what she'd previously called "The Ceausescu Moment."
This was the moment when Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was addressing thousands of his citizens when one woman's shouting "liar!" turned the whole crowd against him and led immediately to his overthrow.
Rice said the Ceausescu Moment is when the only thing that protects a dictator from his people -- fear -- breaks down.
"We must recognize that what we're seeing is the universality of freedom ... that no man, woman or child wants to live in tyranny," Rice said.
She said Americans should know from experience that the path to democracy is not swift, and be patient with those just embarking on the journey.
She said democracy brings not only rights but responsibilities, and the principle of "one person, one vote" doesn't mean a tyranny of the majority or allow the strong to exploit the weak.
Rice said faith-based organizations know this implicitly, which is why it shouldn't be surprising that they so often initiate action toward social justice.
Rice's grandfather and father were Presbyterian ministers who believed in the transforming power of education and that a person's future shouldn't be determined by the conditions in which he or she was born.
And that's why the nation has more work to do, Rice said, since we've returned to a time when one's ZIP code has again become a strong indicator of his or her future.