August 13, 2012
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. This is an incredible conference that is broadcast all over the world. My first experience with the Summit, in fact, was attending a video broadcast in Nairobi a couple of years ago with our Kenyan team, so it was amazing to now be a part of the “live” event!
I have pages of notes to go through and digest, but the speaker that stands out immediately in my mind is Condoleezza Rice. Her perspective is powerful, and her talk covered a bunch of different topics, all addressed through her unique stories. Three messages especially stood out to me:
1. Democracy is freedom institutionalized. Condoleezza was very intentional in differentiating freedom and democracy, and her passion for government that truly does what is best for the people was clear. In her view, democracy rests on two principles: the strong cannot exploit the weak, and every life has potential that is worth developing. As we take part in the political discussions of this year, I hope that these ideas about the purpose of our government can remain in all of our minds.
2. She is proud of the US response to the AIDS crisis. It was very cool for me to hear the former Secretary of State speak with so much conviction about the need for counties like the US to be involved in the global AIDS crisis. Condoleezza said, “PEPFAR was one of the greatest acts of compassion by any country in history,” and I know from personal experience that we will never fully grasp the impact ARV medication has had on places like Kenya (see my recent post here for more on PEPFAR). She spoke about one of her most meaningful memories with George W Bush, while they were on a trip to Africa. The President knelt down next to an AIDS orphan and said to him, “God is good,” to which the boy responded with a smile, “All the time.” These are the moments we don’t hear about in the media, but it was touching to see how much this meant to Condoleezza.
3. The most important quality in a leader is OPTIMISM. As a leader during September 11, the economic crisis of 2008, and the Arab Spring, Condoleezza can speak with authority on the topic of leading through turbulent situations. She encouraged all of us as leaders to hold to optimism, no matter what the circumstances. We should never forget that things could be worse, in fact things HAVE been worse in the past, so we must never give up or focus on the potential negative results.
Each of these points was presented in the light of Condoleezza’s faith and in the context of her inspiring life story, which is perhaps a topic for another post! I would love to hear what you think, too – leave a comment if any ideas or questions come to mind!