Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly told audiences at Mississippi College Tuesday that her current position, professor of political economy in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, is the only job she wants – not a college presidency, not vice president of the United States and not a return to the State Department.
Rice, who was Stanford provost from 1993 to1999 and Secretary of State under George W. Bush, has been speaking at universities around the country, sparking rumblings that she might land a college presidency. But during a press conference at MC, she said she won’t be changing jobs.
“I love what I do… I’m back now as a professor which is a superb state in life. Not only do you have the advantage of doing what you want to in terms of your own research, but I have the best and brightest students and every day I get to help them figure out what they are going to do it life, just like some professor helped me figure out what I was going to do in life,” Rice said during a day of speeches at Mississippi College where she gave the keynote address at the annual scholarship fundraiser.
However, in February an Alabama state legislator introduced a resolution urging the state university system’s board of trustees to contact Rice about filling the position of chancellor of the three-campus system, but the board chose to promote the current president of the University of Alabama’s Tuscaloosa campus, leaving that position available.
Rice, a native of Birmingham, Ala., headed for her hometown after she left Mississippi this week. A new wave of support for her appeared to be coming from students. The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa campus, student newspaper published a lengthy entreaty from a senior outlining numerous reasons whey Rice should become the next president, including her ties to the state and her administrative experience in both government and academia.
But at Mississippi College, Rice insisted she has no interest in a college presidency. “At Stanford the provost is the chief operating officer of the university. I loved making the trains run on time, but I never wanted to be the president of anyone’s university. It’s a totally different job,” she said.
During her keynote Tuesday evening, Rice explained her affinity for the 5,300-student, Christian liberal arts school in a suburb of Jackson, Miss. It was her second time speaking there in less than a decade. She was commencement speaker in 2003 for the Law School graduation.
Rice said at that time, the daughter of her first cousin was among the graduates. The young woman had been born with sickle cell anemia.
“She was very, very proud to have managed to finish law school despite her health challenges. Unfortunately, we lost her a few years ago. She would never have been able to [graduate] but for the compassion and generosity of Mississippi Law and especially for the efforts of the faculty and the students. This is a very special place, and I never got a chance to say thank you on behalf of my family for the wonderful experience you gave to one pretty great young woman.”
Rice touched on issues of foreign policy and immigration in her prepared comments and in responses to questions from media and students. She warned against some of the stringent anti-immigration legislation being proposed in some states. “We have to be careful we don’t make immigrants the enemy,” she said. “Look, I understand the frustration. It’s frustrating that we can’t seem to get comprehensive immigration reform — but the thing that makes the United States special is we have attracted the best and brightest and most ambitious people from all over the world.”
Rice made several references to the civil rights movement, Brown vs. Board of Education, her sharecropper grandfather who earned a scholarship to college and her upbringing in Birmingham during segregation. She said she is an example of the best that America has to offer, that she demonstrates “you can come from humble circumstances and go on to do great things.”