Picture this: the descendant of slaves, born in 1954 in the brutally racial state of Birmingham, Alabama, at the apogee of the Jim Crow era, no less! Fewer situations could rival such a bad hand! Yet despite being buffeted with the odds, Dr. Condoleezza Rice rose to not only beat all of them but trail blaze a path for future generations of women.

Thus far she’s beaten the hardscrabble of racism, sexism, patriarchy, and the soft-bigotry of low expectations to become THE WOMAN! She’s holds a PhD in Political Science; is a professor at Stanford University and was the first woman and African American selected as the Provost of Stanford; served as an adviser to both President Bush 41 and Bush 43; she was the first black woman to be appointed as National Security Adviser and as the Secretary of State of the United States. If her appointment as Stanford’s Tad and Dianne Taube Director of the Hoover Institution is anything to go by, she’s only beginning!

She used her enviable tapestry in international relations, diplomacy, political science, academia and policy to write this richly informative book on democracy. The word so simple in theory but much more complex in practice.

With more and more people world over demanding for accountability from their leaders and fighting more than ever for their freedom, this book couldn’t be more relevant now! Here, I will share a few lessons I learned from her, and then leave you to find out a lot more in the book.

  1. “Every democracy is flawed at its inception. And indeed, no democracy ever becomes perfect.”
  2. The first president of a country sets the tone for how future presidents will behave.”
  3. “Democracy requires balance in many spheres: between executive, legislative and judicial authority; between centralised government and regional responsibility; between civilian and military leaders; between individual and group rights; and ultimately between state and society. In functioning democracies, institutions are invested with protecting that equilibrium.”
  4. “The work of building a stable democracy is never really done. The institutions are constantly challenged, sometimes in small ways, and often in more fundamental tests.”
  5. “Democracy’s development is never a straight line. Rather, it is a step wise process that will often include steps backwards along the way.”
  6. “The defense of democracy is never finished.”
  7. “Human rights advocates, women in politics, business and social entrepreneurs, and intellectuals are the vanguard of a new energy – bottom up – for change.
  1. “It is useful to think of the process of building democracy as climbing steep stairs – move forward, stop on a landing if you must, consolidate, and move forward again.”
  2. “The fact is that institutions can exist on paper, but they have no power until people come to put faith in them. No one really knows how strong an institution is until it is tested.”
  1. “Human beings have to have the opportunity to develop their potential through education. A country that fails to provide all its people with equal access to education will most assuredly be a place of hardened inequality.”

These lessons and the many more in the book, are as relevant to advanced democracies as they are to developing ones and even those contemplating that journey.



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