I was seated in the upper level of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where lucky credentialed observers could watch convention proceedings live. Speaker after speaker strode to the podium and offered the usual convention fare. “Welcome to Barack Obama’s retirement party!” “Let’s vote him out!”
When Condoleezza Rice took the stage, delegates and observers burst into raucous applause. The crowd’s enthusiasm during her speech was mighty. The room thundered. I am not certain I breathed once during the 20 minutes she spoke.
Condoleezza Rice did not mention President Barack Obama once.
No one observing the speech could declare it timid. Yet, at the same time, there was not a single mention of “this administration” or “this president.” In fact, her only use of the word “president” came as she said:
“And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the segregated city of the South where her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant. But they make her believe that — even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter — she can be president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.”
The room roared.
There is power in speaking well, and speaking differently than the rest. Condoleezza Rice embodies a unique style of grace and intellect, and that night in Tampa she proved that having vision is more powerful than being loud.