What do you do with a grad student when she stops being a grad student? What does she do when she retires? That is what I have been asking myself since I completed my master’s coursework in December. I followed the trend of moving back in with my parents until I figure out “what comes next.” And, for lack of anything else to do besides troll the internet for job opportunities, I drove to Provo to hear Condoleeza Rice speak at a university forum. (My friend would laugh at me using the traditional blogging hook: start by talking about my life and then relate it somehow to something I have learned, but it works.)
Anyhow, the political aspects of Rice’s speech were not the strongest, as my sister and I agreed. They were staunchly Republican–surprise, surprise. Keep the government small to allow the private sector to be the site of this country’s creativity and imagination. China is not capable of being a world leader because the communist government refuses to stop monitoring the internet. (Not quite sure that is logical.) The country must be defended. The freedom of the world’s people must be defended. The political review process–the right to “throw the bums out” of political office–should be maintained for all. America is united not by common blood or common religion but by a common idea, that of the American dream, what she called the “American myth.” Her most salient point from this portion was that “today’s headlines and history’s judgments are rarely the same.” Any historian knows that, but it was interesting to see someone living in that space, to see someone who had been part of a persistently controversial administration attempting to reconcile her experience with media criticism.
It is when she launched into her personal history that I became truly captivated. She appealed to the LDS family connection to talk about the significance of her family in her personal and career development. She spoke about segregation, her grandfather who determined to be a Presbyterian minister because that was the only way he could get a scholarship to complete his education, her grandfather’s purchase of nine leather-bound, gold-leaved volumes of literature’s great works (five volumes of which she inherited from him when she began her PhD).
She spoke of the”transforming power of education,” and poignantly recalled her decision to major in international politics rather than piano. Through this avenue she pursued an interest in U.S. and Soviet relations, and said she was glad she changed her major when she and Vladimir Putin and the secret service were taking off from the White House lawn in a helicopter. Her passion and occupation coincided, borrowing a page from my mother’s book, whether or not people agree with her decisions. This is a hopeful message for the occupationally muddled me. All I need to do is be myself and continue pursuing the things I love and maybe one day I will find my equivalent of a helicopter ride with Putin.