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News | May 13, 2021

The (virtual) room where it happens: Condoleezza Rice talks national security, democracy, and “Hamilton” with DIA

By DIA Public Affairs

The evolving national security environment, an examination of American democracy, and the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” were just three of the many topics explored at an April 30 virtual guest speaker event featuring Condoleezza Rice. The former secretary of state and national security advisor spoke to the Defense Intelligence Agency workforce as part of the Agency’s ongoing MasterMinds series.

 DIA’s MasterMinds program invites dignitaries and experts across Government, industry and academia to share their experiences, perspectives and values with DIA. The program provides the workforce with opportunities to expand their knowledge and engage with the Agency’s most pressing issues to foster growth and excel as a DIA officer.

 “I appreciate this opportunity to be with the men and women of, I believe, one of the truly national treasures of our national security establishment,” said Rice, following her introduction by DIA Director Lt. Gen Scott Berrier.

 During the event, Rice answered questions submitted by the DIA workforce.

 Rice first spoke on the qualities of a good leader, emphasizing that integrity was among the most important.

 “If you ever lose the trust of your people, the trust of the Nation … you really are never going to be able to lead,” said Rice.

 As the conversation pivoted to national security, Rice discussed the evolving threat of China and Russia. Comparing and contrasting authoritarian states with democracies, she explained that China has clients and transactional relationships, whereas the United States has allies and partners.

 “I’ll take our allies over their clients any day,” she said. “China will realize it is not just facing the U.S. — it’s facing a coalition.”

 Rice also provided a potential path forward for the United States as it faces a rising China.

 “We have to try to not out-China China. We have to be smart. We have to mobilize our technical capabilities and our allies’ capabilities,” she said. “We have to call out China for what it is — it’s a repressive regime that is fearful of its own people, that is using technology in the most Orwellian way to track its people. That’s not a confident country and I think we need to start calling them out on it.”

 Answering a question about opportunities for American democracy, Rice highlighted how her experience growing up in the segregated South shaped her perspective.

 “I don’t look at America through rose colored glasses … every institution ought to be on the lookout to make sure that people of different backgrounds, different views and different genders are able to participate in America fully,” said Rice. “We are united by a creed, by a belief. You can come from humble circumstances and do great things. … We have an obligation as an international leader to model an America in which people have an opportunity regardless of race, even given our difficult history.”

 Touching on Rice’s extensive writings about the development and evolution of American democracy, Rice was asked about her opinion of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” and its interpretation of historical events. Rice did not throw away her shot to praise the musical, expressing her appreciation for how it has inspired young people to learn more about U.S. history. Sharing that Alexander Hamilton is her favorite Founding Father, Rice extolled his embodiment of the American spirit — coming from humble beginnings and ultimately performing a great service to the Nation with the establishment of the Department of the Treasury and other lasting institutions.

 “What I love about Hamilton is that it got the sense of America as scrappy, America as determined — America’s letting nothing stand in its way,” said Rice. “That spirit remains in America today. … I’ll bet on free peoples any day and I’ll bet on America any day.”

To read other articles from the DIA MasterMinds series, visit this webpage.