Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks with CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle Tuesday at CUNA GAC in Washington, D.C. (Photo by

Embracing diversity and human potential

Condoleezza Rice says Americans must feel like their government believes in them.

February 28, 2023

Condoleezza Rice has met with some of the world’s most powerful people.

But the former U.S. Secretary of State believes the country is best “when we lead not just with power, but also with principle.” That includes focusing on individual well-being and ensuring people get what they need from the government.

“The United States of America can handle any foreign policy challenge if we’re stronger at home. Right now, at home, we’ve got some problems,” says Rice, who joined CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle, another former President George W. Bush cabinet member, Tuesday at CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

While we face supply chain, economic, and political issues, what concerns Rice the most is more abstract.

“America, more than anything, is a remarkable idea that we’re not united by ethnicity, nationality, or religion; we’re united by a creed,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going. You can come from humble circumstances, and you can do great things.”

Rice, director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a founding partner of Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC, says generations of people from around the world have come to the U.S. because of that creed. Furthermore, one of the most promising aspects of America was the promise that people weren’t prisoners of their class.

She doesn’t believe that’s the case anymore.

“Today, when I can look at your ZIP code and I can tell whether you’re going to get a high-quality education, I can’t really say it doesn’t matter where you came from,” Rice says, stressing that America needs to elevate human potential. “We can’t have any more third graders who can’t read or 20- or 30-year-olds who get out of college with debt and no usable skills.

“People believe in this country, but too many don’t believe that the country believes in them any longer,” she says. “We’ve got to get those people back.”

Such people need to feel advocated for and cared about financially, academically, and emotionally. When Nussle asked Rice, who got her first car loan from Stanford Federal Credit Union, how credit unions can be better allies to people, her response centered on diversity.

“It’s a tremendous benefit to have people from different backgrounds and perspectives,” says Rice, the second woman and the first Black woman to serve as secretary of state. “We want to continue to emphasize that diversity and excellence are not at odds with one another. I sometimes don’t hear the excellence part enough. When we talk about diversity, we emphasize difference. We should emphasize how we can come from different places and end up in a common place. That’s the key to a good environment.”

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