May 22, 2006 Print This | Email This     

Education Transforms Lives, Rice Says

Secretary tells Boston College graduates to be humble, optimistic and committed

Washington -- Education is a life-changing experience and a privilege that carries obligations as well, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

The secretary gave the commencement address at Boston College May 22 and also received an honorary degree from the institution.  She told the graduates and their families that education transforms lives.

"That is why people work so hard to become educated," Rice said, "and that is why education has always been the key to the American Dream."  She called education "the force that erases arbitrary divisions of race and class and culture and unlocks every person's God-given potential."

Rice also said education carries with it obligations for its recipients as well as benefits.  She enumerated five responsibilities for educated people:

-- Find and follow your passion;

-- Commit to using reason;

-- Reject false pride;

-- Be optimistic; and

-- Act on your ideals.

Rice said she found her life's passion by chance at a time when she had abandoned one dream but had not replaced it with anything else.  At the University of Denver she took a course on international politics taught by Josef Korbel, a Czech refugee who specialized in studies of the Soviet Union.  Korbel, who died in 1977, was the father of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

"With that one class, I was hooked," Rice said.  "I discovered that my passion was Russia and all things Russian."

In committing to reason, Rice urged graduates to examine their own opinions and to attack their personal prejudices, using reason as the tool.  Even though this can be unsettling, she said, it is the only way to grow intellectually.  A life without questions provides a false comfort, she said.

"It's possible today to live in an echo chamber that serves only to reinforce your own high opinion of yourself and what you think," Rice said.  "That is a temptation that educated people have a responsibility to reject."

For her, the most important responsibility is to work to advance human progress, she said.

Educated people, she said, must reject prejudices and "help close the gaps of justice and opportunity" still present in the United States and around the globe.

"Remember your responsibilities to find your passion, to use your reason, to cultivate humility, to remain optimistic and always to serve others," Rice said in closing.

Rice's remarks are available on the State Department Web site.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: