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Interview With Boston College Magazine and Boston College Student Newspaper The Heights

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Boston, Massachusetts
May 22, 2006

Secretary of  Rice and Under Secretary Burns with Tom Wiedeman of the Boston College Student Newspaper, The Heights, [left] and Greg Frost of The Boston College Magazine [right]. Secretary Rice is in Boston to deliver the Commencement Address at BC on May 22, 2006. State Department Photo by Josie DuckettQUESTION: You could pick any place to give a commencement address. Why did you pick BC this year?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I've always had a lot of respect for Boston College and it's a fine institution of learning. It helped that the Under Secretary for Political Affairs is a graduate, but when he brought the proposal to me, I thought, "I'd love to do the commencement address at Boston College." It's a place that I think has the reputation of being rigorous in its education, but also reaching out to kids who perhaps wouldn't have otherwise had an opportunity, a lot of first-generation college graduates. It's a very special place in that way. And I also have had my experiences with Catholic education and I'm rather fond of Catholic education. I think it tends to have a kind of rigor and discipline that is missing in a lot of institutions.

QUESTION: You kind of mentioned the Catholic education. I mean, you had it kind of difficult going to Denver and then at Stanford --


QUESTION: -- and then going to Notre Dame.


QUESTION: What's kind of the difference?

SECRETARY RICE: But I went to Catholic high school, actually.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I went to St. Mary's Academy in Denver, Sisters of Loretta, in Denver. But I think our religious schools in America are quite special, because they uphold their traditions, their religious traditions, but they do it in a context that still allows freedom of thought and freedom of expression. And it's very interesting that some of our strongest academic institutions are also religious institutions. And that's -- we talk so much in the United States about separation of church and state, but of course, what that meant was that there wouldn't be any state religion and people would be free to choose to be religious or not.

But religion, of course, plays an extremely important role in the United States and our institutions are -- educational institutions, I think, have married it quite well.

QUESTION: I'm going to switch gears and ask you a couple of questions about current events and foreign policy.


QUESTION: The first one is, would you be ready to offer any U.S. security guarantee as part of a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, let me just set the record straight. We haven't been asked. You know, there have been some stories that the Europeans want us to give security guarantees. I've sat with my counterparts many times and nobody has said, "We ought to give security assurances to Iran." And it is a bit strange to talk about security assurances when you think about an Iran, quite apart from the nuclear issue, that still, as state doctrine, believes in the destruction of Israel, that, as state doctrine, is active in terrorist operations in the Middle East, supporting Hezbollah and Lebanon, that is engaged in helping promote violence in the south of Iraq, including, we believe, supporting technology that may be contributing to some of the deadliest violence against our forces.

This is a question of Iranian behavior and from time to time, people try to set this up as a U.S.-Iranian issue, but Iran's problem is not with the United States. Iran's problem is with the international community. It's been unwilling to accept a course to a civil nuclear program that is acceptable, given -- to the international community, given the proliferation risk of Iran using that civil nuclear program to build a nuclear weapon. And so we need to get the focus back on Iran's problem with the international system, not the U.S.-Iranian dimension.

QUESTION: There's -- in the United States, BC is a Jesuit school, there's a lot of talk about social justice, things like that. When you look at a couple of the big issues that have been going on on campus, issues in Darfur, of course, and then there have been other talks about child soldiers in Uganda, other issues going on that just haven't been talked about, what -- I guess, not how do you feel about those, but what kind of new things need to be done on those issues?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm glad you asked, Tom, because let me give you just a sense. Very often, people think only about the Administration's policies in the war on terror, but let me talk about a few other things that have been very important to this president.

Darfur; when the President first came to office, he wanted to do something about Sudan and he asked former Senator Jack Danforth to become an envoy and we got a Comprehensive Peace Agreement that settled the decades-old civil war between the north and south, where the Southern Christians had been bombed by the north, where there had been millions of people killed in that civil war. And the United States brokered that arrangement.

Before we could completely, however, put that into place, Darfur broke out and the United States has been in the lead. It is the United States that has given -- to date, about 89 percent of the food aid that has gone into Darfur is American food assistance through the World Food Program. It has been the United States that's been pushing for a UN -- a robust UN security force to protect the people of Darfur and pushing NATO to provide logistical support to that security force. And it is the United States -- in fact, Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick who went to push with AU leaders and others for a peace agreement between the rebels and Darfur -- and the Sudan Government. So we've been very active in Darfur. What we need is more help from others in the international community, particularly states like China that have been reluctant to press the Sudanese Government.

AIDS; President Bush, a number of years ago, asked the American people to give $15 billion over five years to the fight against AIDS. And it has literally saved the lives of thousands of Africans who would not have had treatment without it. He also was one of the founders, with Kofi Annan, of the Global AIDS Fund. And so the United States is spending enormous amounts of resources to try and deal with the scourge of AIDS.

The United States has been very active in the movement on trafficking in persons. Several years ago, the President went to the United Nations and called on the world to stop modern slavery. And we have been very active in working with countries and, when necessary, naming even some of our best friends as being unconcerned about the trafficking in women and the trafficking in children.

Finally, speaking of women, when you look at the conditions that women were living in, for instance, in Afghanistan, the liberation of Afghanistan is one of the great human rights victories for women. You go now to Afghanistan, women walk the streets, women are in the police force, in the army. Under the Taliban, they were being herded into stadiums and executed for allowing the sound of their feet to be heard on the ground.

So I think -- and just one final point. This president has been very concerned about poverty alleviation. Official development assistance in this Administration has doubled in Latin American, tripled in Africa. It is up two times in this president's administration. Why; because we believe that assistance that is given for -- to countries that are governing wisely, that are trying to deal with their people's condition, that America is a generous country and ought to be active. And that's why, through assistance, through trade, and through debt relief, where the United States led that effort as well, we've done so much to try to alleviate poverty.

So that's another side of the Administration policies that I think, because there is so much going on with Iraq and Iran and the war on terrorism, that sometimes people lose sight of.

QUESTION: You mentioned Iraq, Iran. I was going to ask you about North Korea.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, there is North Korea too.

QUESTION: Would you be ready to link a peace treaty to any agreement with North Korea? There was some talk about that this week.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes; the six-party agreement that we signed in September envisions a North Korean strategic choice to give up its nuclear weapons verifiably and then work on a broad front on other issues, not just the nuclear issue, including ways to end the state of war that has existed on the Korean peninsula since the armistice was signed in 1953.

But it can't be taken out of context of the need for the North Koreans to make a strategic decision to give up their nuclear weapons -- and by the way, they're not even at the table at this point. It's all a moot point. But I think we would -- none of us would like anything better than to have North Korea make that strategic choice, begin the verifiable dismantlement of its weapons, see the ability of the international system to reach out to the North Korean people so that there can be greater openness and spotlight on that society. And ultimately, to see peace on the Korean peninsula.

QUESTION: I don't want to talk too much about the protests, but there have been some vocal groups. I think most people are very excited --


QUESTION: -- that you're coming, as I know we both are, and -- but there have been some people who have voiced concerns. I don't know if you heard about Senator McCain down in New York this week, or last week, but have you gotten used to these kinds of protests? How do you feel about when they happen, when you give speeches like this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, as a university professor and a university provost, I'm no stranger to controversy on university campuses and its part of what makes university campuses what they are. People can speak their minds, they can stand on both sides of issues, they can debate them. I'm very proud to have been asked by Boston College to come here. I'm very excited about giving the speech. I promise you it won't be long. I promise you that. I remember that the one thing I don't remember about my commencement was what the speaker said. And so I think it's a great opportunity to be here.

But I've been asked this when -- you know, when I've faced protests in various places around the world. This is what democracy is all about, because people are able to give full voice to their views. The only issue is that they also have to let others give full voice to their views. That's the bargain in democracy. You get to say what you think, but others get to say what they think too. And there can't be a monopoly on only hearing one set of views. That would be -- that's what would be anti-democratic; not to protest, but to insist on a monopoly of your views.

I also know that I'm very proud to be associated with a president who believes that there is no place on earth and there are no people on earth who should be denied that freedom. Because if you look at Kabul or Baghdad in 2000, 2001, these were places where speaking your mind would get you killed immediately, no questions asked. And now, speaking your mind means being able to stand up and say whatever you think about Prime Minister Maliki or President Karzai, to organize yourself politically, to have your views heard.

One of my proudest moments, not out of personal pride, but pride for this person was during the debate of the Afghan constitution, there was a woman and it was described to me by people from our Embassy who were there, as a smallish woman. And this warlord was giving a speech and this very small woman got up and she delivered a speech against him for his brutality against the Afghan people and said that people like him should not expect to have any place in a future government in Afghanistan. Now, that's unthinkable under the Taliban, unthinkable. And so as people protest policies in Iraq or Afghanistan, that's just fine. But I hope we would not forget that these were people who were living under the most brutal dictatorships of the 20th and 21st centuries. Dictators who particularly in Saddam Hussein's case, who had used chemical weapons against its own people and against its neighbor who'd invaded his neighbors twice, who had built mass graves with at least 300,000 people. And the world is better off without him.

QUESTION: At what point does the immigration situation require a State Department response?


QUESTION: What is diplomacy's role in this debate?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's a very difficult question. First of all, the immigration debate in this country, I hope, will follow the course that the President laid out the other night, which is a civil debate about what is a very difficult issue, but recognizing that we should be a country of laws, that we do have to defend our borders. But we're also a country of immigrants and a country that wants to be humane to people who have lived among us, who have worked among us, who have roots in the United States and need to be treated with dignity. And if we can achieve that balance, indeed, both a country, as the President said, that is welcoming and a country that is lawful, we'll continue the proud heritage of immigrants to America who contribute and contribute overwhelmingly to the success of this country.

Now the wonderful thing about America is that it ultimately doesn't matter if you're German American or African American or Mexican American. You're American because you're committed to an idea. And in a world where people still hold on to ethnic differences from five and six and seven hundred years ago, America is a model that really needs to be understood and to provide a kind of touchstone for the idea of multi-ethnic democracy. So this immigration debate is very important in our country and I hope will carry that civil tone.

The State Department gets involved because, of course, it is the issue of international borders. I talk all the time to my Mexican and Canadian colleagues, our two closest borders. And I say to them, I hope you'll begin your sentences with "America has a right to uphold its laws and to defend its borders" and go on then to talk about the treatment of immigrants. And I think they understand that. But it is very often a source of discussion when I meet with my colleagues from Mexico or from Canada. There's a lot at stake for everybody.

QUESTION: BC has got a proud tradition of -- when people go into public service. And we see Under Secretary Burns is one of them. If you're talking to students or seniors, I guess, or to students still at BC what do you think is important to study, what kinds of skills are important to gain if you want to go into public service and especially foreign service, I guess?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think anything that you study in college has really only one purpose and it's not actually to decide what you're going to do in the job market. It's to find what you're passionate about. It's to find what makes you want to get up in the morning and go and do that. And once you've found your passion, and hopefully your passion and your talents will be in same place, you're going to end up being successful at what you do. And when I swear in classes of new Foreign Service officers, they come from the widest variety of backgrounds. They're people who studied engineering, they're people who studies languages, they're people who studied science. We have mid-career people who come in, who've had a military career or a career as a schoolteacher and then they come into the Foreign Service.

You could do public service at any time in your life and from any training and platform. The only thing that I think you have to have is a realization of willingness to want at some time in your life to give back because without great public servants, without people who have done this work for so many years and continue to do it, we wouldn't have the freedoms that we have in the United States. And whatever you've chosen to do in life, you wouldn't have been able to pursue it without others who gave back.

You're at a school at Boston College where people who teach you and mentor you do service and believe in service and believe in causes bigger than yourself and that's all that I would ask a student is that at some time in your life you serve a cause that's bigger than yourself. It's the most rewarding thing that you can do. And I know that Boston College also has a tradition of public service for students while they're in college. Stanford had a similar tradition. And I know that it's sometimes hard to find the time to go and tutor that kid or to go and work in a homeless shelter or whatever you choose to do, and you've got your studies and your sports and hopefully a social life. But I can assure you that anybody who does it, finds that you get a new energy from it, even if you have a little trouble juggling the schedule, that it's one of the most energizing things that you can do.

QUESTION: We have time for one more?


QUESTION: One more. All right. Vice President Cheney recently accused Putin of restricting the rights of Russia's citizens in using -- in using energy resources for blackmail. To many observers, that signaled a shift in U.S. policy. And yet, experts in Russian affairs have complained of a resurgence in the Kremlin's old totalitarian ways for several years. Why has the United States waited so long to challenge Moscow on this point?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, we have been challenging Moscow on these points for more than a year now and in some ways, a couple of years. I'll give you a few examples. When the NGO law came out, we were very vocal that this NG law had the potential to restrict the important work of the nongovernmental sector that is at the core of the democratization of Russia. We spent a lot of time on and we talked about it publicly.

I talked about the Russian use of energy as a weapon back when the Russians tried to withhold gas from Ukraine in what the Russians said was a commercial dispute. And I remember saying that if it was a commercial dispute you would not have sent the President of Russia out to issue the ultimatum. You would have seen the President of Gazprom out to issue the ultimatum. So these are things we've been saying and talking about for some time. They, perhaps, got put together in the Vice President's speech. But these have been issues with the Russians and we've been vocal about them. Yet, nobody -- as the President said, nobody's going to give up on Russia. We know that it's not the Soviet Union. I studied the Soviet Union. I went to the Soviet Union as a graduate student.

I hate to tell you, in 1979, when Leonid Brezhnev was the Secretary of the -- General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, if he still exists -- which I guess he probably does -- isn't somebody that you can name or that I can name today. And so that shows how far this country has come. And it does have a growing middle class. It does have growing property rights. There are some protections for individual freedoms. But we have to worry that the kind of institutionalization of democracy that is so important with the free press, with a judiciary that's independent, with a legislature that is a real legislature, that's what is -- has not taken place and, indeed, where there have been some reversals in Russia. And so we have to speak the truth as we know it. It's also important for Russia not to intimidate its neighbors. Small states around Russia that used to be a part of the Soviet Union are now independent states and they have to be respected as such.

Finally, if Russia is to be a reliable energy supplier in the energy markets, which is extremely important these days, Russia has to behave in a way that its customers are to believe that these really will be matters of commerce and not matters of politics. So it was important to speak up on it, but we still have a good relationship with Russia. We worked together on all kinds of issues. And as I said, we've come a long, long way from when there was a hammer and sickle above the Kremlin.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thanks a lot.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

Released on May 23, 2006

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