Let Us Once Again Recommit
Ourselves to Those Values Which Define Us
by Condoleezza Rice
Sundays in my family meant
church. It was the center of our lives. In segregated black Birmingham
of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the church was not just a
place of worship; it was the social and civic center of our community.
Throughout my life I have never
doubted the existence of God, but, like most people, I have had
some ups and downs in practicing my faith. After I moved to California
in 1981, there were a lot of years when I was not attending church
Then something happened that
I will always remember. One Sunday morning, I was approached
at the supermarket by a man buying some things for his church
picnic. He asked me, "Do you play the piano by any chance?"
I said, "Yes." And he said his congregation was looking
for someone to play the piano at their church. It was a small
African-American church and I started playing there every Sunday.
And I thought to myself, "My goodness, God has a long reach
- all the way to a Lucky's Supermarket in the spice section on
a Sunday morning."
The only problem was, it was
a Baptist church and I don't play gospel very well, unlike our
great Attorney General John Ashcroft. I play Brahms. So I called
my mother for advice. She said, "Honey, just play in C and
they'll come back to you." And that's true. If you play
in C, the foundational key in music, people will come back. Perhaps
God plays in C, and that's why we always seem to find our way
back to Him, sometimes in spite of ourselves.
Looking back on the years since
I found my way back, it is hard for me to imagine my life without
a strong and active faith. Faith is what gives me comfort, and
humility, and hope - even through the darkest hours. Like many
people, I have turned to God and prayer more and more this past
year and a half. Terror and tragedy have made us more aware of
our vulnerability and our own mortality.
We are living through a time
of testing and consequence - and praying that our wisdom and
will are equal to the work before us. And it is at times like
these that we are reminded of a paradox, that it is a privilege
to struggle. A privilege to struggle for what is right and true.
A privilege to struggle for freedom over tyranny. A privilege,
even, to struggle with the most difficult and profound moral
American slaves used to sing,
"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen - Glory Hallelujah!"
Growing up, I would often wonder at the seeming contradiction
contained in this line. But as I grew older, I came to learn
that there is no contradiction at all.
Struggle doesn't just strengthen
us to survive hard times - it is also the key foundation for
true optimism and accomplishment. Indeed, personal achievement
without struggle somehow feels incomplete and hollow. It is true
too for human kind - because nothing of lasting value has ever
been achieved without sacrifice.
A second, more important, lesson
to be learned from struggle and suffering is that we can use
the strength it gives us for the good of others. Nothing good
is born of personal struggle if it is used to fuel one's sense
of entitlement, or superiority.
America emerged from the losses
of September 11th as a nation that is not only stronger, but
hopefully better and more generous. Tragedy made us appreciate
our freedom more - and more conscious of the fact that God gives
all people, everywhere, the right to be free. It made us more
thankful for our own prosperity, for life, and health - and more
aware that all people everywhere deserve the opportunity to build
a better future.
It prompted us to cultivate
what the President has called "the habit of service"
to others so that the "gathering momentum of millions of
acts of kindness" may bring hope to people in desperate
need. And perhaps most importantly, September 11th reminded us
of our heritage as a tolerant nation; one that welcomes people
of all faiths, or no faith at all.
Now, as our Nation once again
deals with great loss, with fears and uncertainties, let us once
again recommit ourselves to those values which define us. Let
us renew our quest for understanding the natural world and all
the heavens which God has made. Let us renew our commitment to
standing for life, and liberty, and peace for all people. Let
us renew our commitment to working with all nations to conquer
want, and hunger, and disease in every corner of the globe. Let
us accept our responsibility to defend the freedom which we are
so privileged to enjoy.
If terror and tragedy spur
us to rediscover and strengthen these commitments, then we can
truly say that some good has come from great loss. And in all
the trials that may lie ahead, we will carry these commitments
close to our heart so we may leave a better world for those who
(Dr. Condoleezza Rice is
National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush. Comments
may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.)
Published April 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy
Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New
Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not
necessarily those of Project 21.
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