Condoleezza Rice Visits Claremont, Faces Protest

By: Ana Kakkar | Dec 01, 2011 | 438 Views News |

Never was the politically-charged atmosphere of the Claremont Colleges so palpable as it was last night during Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Athenaeum Ducey Gymnasium at Claremont McKenna College. Between the protests and teach-ins held outside by Pitzer students, who claim that Rice is a war criminal, to the energized atmosphere in Ducey, where the talk was moved to accommodate  the protestors, the buzz of excitement was definitely heard throughout the consortium.

The entrance to the talk was crowded with several dozen protesters from the 5C’s and the surrounding community. The gathering of dissenters held signs, which varied in messages from peaceful indignation to vulgar allegations. “War benefits the 1%,” read one sign and another displayed a photo of Rice’s face superimposed on a hyper-sexualized image of Wonder Woman.  The protest itself, dubbed “Unwelcoming Condoleezza Rice,” was organized by Pitzer students Emma French ’13, Vincent Giannotti ’12, and Liz Scherffius’13, who hoped to “open a discussion on how foreign policy is, and should be, made.”

When asked whether they believed that the protest — which drew its influence from the Karl Rove Athenaeum protests of 2008 – could possibly be construed as impolite, French responded that “CMC students need to straighten out their priorities; Condoleezza’s crimes are so much more severe than rudeness.” French further explained that the “demonstrators were upset with the protest zone” and felt that it was “not accommodating.” When pressed about the private property laws that would allow CMC administration to expel the protestors from even the zone appropriated to them, French continued to assert that the “restriction had no basis.”

While the event was held and sponsored by CMC, French stressed that the issue was “not about Pitzer or CMC ideology,” but rather about “the larger effect,” and that “making the argument otherwise is incredibly shallow.” Some students did take the time to talk to the protestors, attempting to decipher the argument which “got bogged down in ideological rhetoric,” explains Kyle Gosselin’14, who spoke with the protesters for the duration of the lecture. Gosselin continued that his “impression was that they were expressing their opinions, and even though [he] disagreed wholeheartedly, [he] respects them for getting out there and doing it.” Others, like Sae Bin Park ’12 were not quite so receptive, claiming, “no one cares about liberals at CMC and what they have to say.” Overall, however, French expressed her great satisfaction with the event, explaining that it had turned out “a hundred times better than [she] ever expected,” and that she was “proud that [the protesters] proved [they] could have really strong opinions without being disrespectful.”

The lecture itself began with a lighthearted jab at the evening’s venue change as Athenaeum Fellow Jake Petzold ’12 remarked, “Welcome to the…where are we?” After his introduction, Rice began her discussion on policy-making and her experience as Secretary of State in the President George W. Bush’s administration. Discussing her reaction in the wake of, the 9/11 attack, Rice described the aftermath of that unforgettable day as living every day “like it was September 12th.” Rice also offered commentary on the state of certain countries throughout the world, noting Brazil and India as countries with great liability but expressing her appreciation for the value of their brand of “multiethnic democracy.” Rice went on to call China a miracle, contend that the upheavals and anger in the Middle East are “ultimately a better outcome than the silence of authoritarianism,” and describe the United States of America gone bad as the “biggest challenge to the United States of America.”

Aware of her college audience, Rice also stressed the importance of education and the pursuit of one’s passion as the key to happiness and success. Rice herself was a music major until the end of her sophomore year at University of Denver when she realized that she did not have the talent to play professionally. She then described her path to finding a major, eventually landing on becoming a Soviet specialist noting, “From that moment on, everything started to fall in place.” Rice then expressed her great belief in finding one’s passion, with great conviction in the idea that when you “find your passion, you will be a long way towards happiness and prosperity in life.” With this, she advised students to try something difficult, explaining, that “if you make yourself succeed in things that are hard for you, you will find that you are more fulfilled and that you find greater satisfaction in overcoming something that was hard for you than in doing something that was easy.”

Photo Credit: David Leathers

Her words were well-received by CMC students. Hillary Lundberg’14 describes the talk as “witty, honest, and inspiring – rare qualities in someone of her status and experience.”

Rice then took on a half hour of questions from the audience that ranged from her difficulties as a minority female, to foreign relations with Iran and Iraq, to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s “kind of creepy” affection for her. She addressed the administration’s use of water boarding as an “enhanced interrogation technique,” and defended it after the Justice Department deemed it legal  before it was used. In response to one question, Rice affirmed that “Iraq is still a lot better off without Saddam Hussein,” and she was “glad that we are not sitting here talking about an arms race, a nuclear arms race between Iran’s Ahmadinejad and Iraq’s Sadam Hussein, and that’s exactly where we would be.” She then went on to dub Iran the “most dangerous country in the world right now,” and suggest that tougher sanctions should be levied against the state. Rice cautioned, however, that for those students who hoped to influence policy, “take it one step at a time.”

Rice closed her talk stating, “I have no problem with protests, this country was born in protests,” in reference to the reactions of many to the decisions made in Iraq. But perhaps in her own nod to the protesters right outside Ducey Gymnasium, Rice noted that when people protest “they need to be sure they’re not getting in the way of others who might want to have a civil dialogue about differences.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally stated that the administration “defended it [an enhanced interrogation technique] as it passed through judicial review before it was used.” The Justice Department reviewed and deemed the action legal and it was not passed through judicial review. This article was updated at 11:30am on December 2, to reflect this change.

About the Author

Ana Kakkar is the Editor-in-Chief of the CMC Forum. She loves truffle salt and using the double screens in Poppa to watch TV and play bubble spinner at the same time. Follow her @anakakkar

  • Hmm

    What does Pitzer do to benefit the 5Cs, besides organize protests at CMC events?

  • Hmm

    What does Pitzer do to benefit the 5Cs, besides organize protests at CMC events?

  • Hmm

    What does Pitzer do to benefit the 5Cs, besides organize protests at CMC events?

    • Dan Evans

      This is an utterly ignorant statement and represents a greater ideology at CMC that, as a Senior, I am frankly sick and tired of.
      The fact is, if the Claremont Colleges were a single academic institution with the same student body, there would be a need for academic disciplines and fields of study that are simply not present at CMC.  Be as derisive as you want about (field)-studies majors and things like art and film, but they are a valuable part of an academic setting and the faculty and students at Pitzer have every right to be at the 5Cs and, though many CMCers will not concede this point, are just as talented as their other 5C counterparts.  You may have chosen to major in a “real” subject like Government or Finance, but this does not inherently diminish the contributions made to the 5C community by Pitzer as a whole.Furthermore, Pitzer classes are open to CMC students, and believe it or not, there are CMC students who major at Pitzer.  I would know, I live with two of them.  It is completely unfair to be this elitist in regards to Pitzer as an institution, and you should at least be a bit ashamed that you hold such a close-minded view.  Sure CMC is great, go ahead and believe that, and go ahead and think that CMC’s choice of academic specialty is more relevant to your interests as a student.  However, none of the 5Cs would truly be better off without the community as a whole that we have here.  You should feel lucky that you go to a small liberal arts college, with its specialties and all, that has access to such a diverse number of academic offerings that is only allowed by the Consortium.  And if you’re not going to feel lucky for that, I strongly encourage you to speak to your friends, which you surely have from home, about what kinds of majors and academic programs are offered at the state schools they attend.  I’m sure you will find that they have both Economics/Business programs as well as Humanities programs.  In the meantime, please keep your anonymous opinions that are simply not based in fact out of an airspace that is representative of my school, because it’s frankly pretty damn embarrassing for the CMCers who understand this.  

    • Dan Evans

      This is an utterly ignorant statement and represents a greater ideology at CMC that, as a Senior, I am frankly sick and tired of.
      The fact is, if the Claremont Colleges were a single academic institution with the same student body, there would be a need for academic disciplines and fields of study that are simply not present at CMC.  Be as derisive as you want about (field)-studies majors and things like art and film, but they are a valuable part of an academic setting and the faculty and students at Pitzer have every right to be at the 5Cs and, though many CMCers will not concede this point, are just as talented as their other 5C counterparts.  You may have chosen to major in a “real” subject like Government or Finance, but this does not inherently diminish the contributions made to the 5C community by Pitzer as a whole.Furthermore, Pitzer classes are open to CMC students, and believe it or not, there are CMC students who major at Pitzer.  I would know, I live with two of them.  It is completely unfair to be this elitist in regards to Pitzer as an institution, and you should at least be a bit ashamed that you hold such a close-minded view.  Sure CMC is great, go ahead and believe that, and go ahead and think that CMC’s choice of academic specialty is more relevant to your interests as a student.  However, none of the 5Cs would truly be better off without the community as a whole that we have here.  You should feel lucky that you go to a small liberal arts college, with its specialties and all, that has access to such a diverse number of academic offerings that is only allowed by the Consortium.  And if you’re not going to feel lucky for that, I strongly encourage you to speak to your friends, which you surely have from home, about what kinds of majors and academic programs are offered at the state schools they attend.  I’m sure you will find that they have both Economics/Business programs as well as Humanities programs.  In the meantime, please keep your anonymous opinions that are simply not based in fact out of an airspace that is representative of my school, because it’s frankly pretty damn embarrassing for the CMCers who understand this.  

      • Laura Epstein

        Couldn’t agree more. Whether or not you agree with the protestors (consisting of students from across the 5Cs), their presence increases political discourse and challenges student views.

  • Shane K.

    The protest zone is troubling at best, and illegal at worst.
    How can the school possibly say that segregating those who hold certain beliefs
    to a restricted area is not viewpoint-based discrimination?

    Granted, CMC is private property, and the school reserves
    the right to expel anyone from its grounds for nearly any reason. But that
    doesn’t mean that it should. CMC
    prides itself as an institution of higher learning and enlightenment centered
    around the open marketplace of ideas. Cordoning protesters is an embarrassing
    rejection of that mission. It is actions like this that give CMC a national
    reputation for hostility toward free speech. Just this year was CMC upgraded to
    “yellow” from years of a “red” rating by the Foundation for Individual Rights
    in Education, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these antics cause us to be
    downgraded again (see FIRE’s
    website for more info). Colleges and universities are supposed to be bastions
    of free speech, and no impediment to such speech should be taken lightly.

    Further, it’s not so clear that the private-property
    argument hold up as well as many people think. Sure, the administration can
    throw any townie out it pleases. Townies have no (well, few) rights on campus.
    They don’t pay tuition and may be asked to leave at any time. Many of the
    protesters, however were Pitzer students, who, for $50,000 a year, are entitled
    to the benefits of intercampus agreements that allow 5C students to roam, and
    speak, freely on each campus. Though I have not read these policies in detail,
    I would be willing to bet they are not nullified just because an otherwise
    peaceful student is wearing a political shirt or carrying a sign with a
    political message. If they are, I am ashamed.

    But forget Pitzer for a second, what does this mean for us. There were a handful of CMCers who
    showed up to the protest and their rights have clearly been violated. The
    administration claims it segregated the protesters for security reasons, which
    is seemingly understandable, except for the fact that people—cmc students included—
    were considered security threats only
    on the basis of their political beliefs. Non protesting students were still
    free to wander about the grounds as usual, it is only once students espoused
    their ideologies that they were asked to move to a special area. So let me get
    this straight, I can stand anywhere I want on campus in an “I hate tomatoes”
    T-shirt (and I do, by the way, they’re disgusting) with impunity, but if it instead
    says “I hate Condi” or “I hate Obama” my rights are eviscerated and I can be quarantined as a “rabble
    rouser.” If $50,000 doesn’t buy you a little more freedom and respect than that,
    shouldn’t being an American? I think we need to have a very serious talk with
    our administration about the speech codes at CMC.

    Lastly, I want to point out that I understand the administrations
    security concerns and don’t believe that the security was overly harsh, just
    discriminatory. Few things make me angrier than vandals and thieves who
    masquerade as “activists.” Destroying property is not ever political speech.
    Harsh security measures and restrictions on all
    students, while not necessarily prudent, would be acceptable. Designating a “zone”
    for those persons of a certain belief is not.

    • Shane K.

      sorry, forgot to hyperlink
      http://thefire.org/spotlight/schools/151

    • Guest

      I don’t like that the protesters had to be cordoned off to one area.
      I thought well of their persistence, too, because they did not direct
      their complaints to students as I walked by the first time. However, one
      person is all it takes to change things. My respect went down the drain
      when my friends and I were later personally accosted with an unusually hostile question, followed by a second
      equally unnecessary comment about Rice’s book from a protester who had broken away from her friends and
      seemed to have no sense of personal space.

      Trying
      to condemn Rice is one thing but attempting to intimidate students is something else altogether. I think we can agree that students’ decision to attend Rice’s talk cannot be a
      justifiable reason to jeer, incite or spew comments at them. This person clearly could
      not distinguish between the two and her tone inadvertently
      encouraged a response from us.

      We
      chose to walk away because the protester was already frustrated, having
      misunderstood (what I perceive to be) the purpose of her peers – to
      condemn Rice, not students attending. My point is that there are people
      who understand their argument and act maturely to convey their POV while
      protesting (the vast majority of last night’s protesters, I’m sure)
       and others who get carried away with emotions and act with misdirected
      hostility. The Karl Rove protests, especially, have set a precedence that mandates caution.
      This minor incident aside, I think that the overall nature of the
      protest last night will go a long way in making it possible for students to protest
      sensibly on our campus in the future. For now, though, I wouldn’t discount the contribution of the security measures which made that possible.

      • Shane K.

        Neither tone, immaturity, respectfulness, coherency, prudence, non-violent hostility, propriety, intelligence nor eloquence are requirements of free speech rights. Students attending may not have been the proper objects of protest, intellectually or logically, but that is for the speaker to decide. So long as the “jeers” do not persist to the point of harassment or assault, it is perfectly acceptable for protesters to condemn students for attending a political event. I wish everybody could have a nice, calm intellectual debate too, but thank god my opinion has no bearing on other peoples’ rights.

        • Adam Griffith

          Why does this protest zone even matter? The protesters left it at 5:10 and were never forced to go back.  That sat right in front of the gate as we all went in. Clearly it hindered them significantly.

  • Jonathan Hirsch

    Dr. Rice did NOT say that waterboarding “passed through judicial review before it was used.” Judicial review means review by the judiciary, eg the courts. Dr. Rice argued that because DOJ (including AG Ashcroft) found that it was not illegal, that it therefore was not illegal. She may be right that waterboarding is not illegal. But every Gov 20 student knows that there are no checks and balances in a system where the ultimate legality of executive action is determined by executive officials at DOJ.

    • Shane K.

      Good call

    • I <3 CMC

      Actually, she said that she approached Ashcroft AFTER the Department of Justice gave the go-ahead – she went to Ashcroft for reaffirmation, not permission.

    • I <3 CMC

      Actually, she said that she approached Ashcroft AFTER the Department of Justice gave the go-ahead – she went to Ashcroft for reaffirmation, not permission.

  • I <3 CMC

    Excellent article, Ana.

  • I <3 CMC

    Excellent article, Ana.

  • Hmm

    Plus one to this article. CMC Forum > The Portside in terms of journalistic integrity. All they can do is write opinion-laced articles about how butthurt they are about the protests, reactions, and the visit.

    • Hmm

      Aw, Damn. Someone took my name below…Not the same Hmm. Fail.

    • CMC Alum

      The Port Side never claimed to be anything other than “The Progressive Publication of the Claremont Colleges.” Of course they have a slant.

      Maybe the Forum should start being more of the objective newspaper that it’s supposed to be (and has been in the past), rather than the mouthpiece it has become.

  • XJ18

    I happen to be a junior at CMC, and though I’d classify myself as conservative, I must concede that those CMC’ers who “engaged in debate’ with the protesters did a fairly awful job of it. Kyle Gosselin inquired as to why Rice was a “war criminal,” and, when supplied with answers (Her condoning of water boarding, her role in purveying false intelligence that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq), muttered for a while, replying with “well, you know, like, we just disagree, okay”. He then stood there like a bumbling idiot, with wholly insufficient knowledge to continue any real dialogue, asserting that the protest was “just, like, not reasonable.” Obviously every school’s circle jerk carries enough momentum to indoctrinate its students sufficiently enough as to believe they are unequivocally right in all scenarios, but please, Kyle, you’re an embarrassment. 

  • Ab

    The quote from Sae Bin demonstrates everything people hate about CMC… People like that (ignorant jackasses) don’t make up the entire student body, we promise. While I don’t agree with Rice’s politics, I found her an inspiring, eloquent speaker, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to listen to her speak.

    • Embarrassed

      Completely agree. Don’t know why the Forum would use this idiot’s quote as representative of larger CMC opinion.

  • Really now?

    I’m not sure if i find French’s comment that “CMC students need to straighten out their priorities; Condoleezza’s crimes are so much more severe than rudeness” or Sae Bin’s comment that  “no one cares about liberals at CMC and what they have to say” more insulting.  Disclaimer: I am about as liberal as possible.  So much so that my parents were shocked I wasn’t joining the protests.  But I digress from my issues with the comments.
         First of all, I think our priorities were straight.  While I’m sure some (most?) attendees are Rice fans or supporters, I know I saw many people in the crowd (myself included) who most likely do view water boarding as torture but wanted to engage Rice in a discussion about that and similar decisions rather than call her names and hypersexualize her (Seriously, protestors?  A hyper-sexualized picture of Wonder Woman?  I may disagree with you on many things, but I would expect you to be less misogynistic than the average CMCers.  Guess I was wrong!).  Our priority was to be educated…potentially the same priority as the protestors (although I disagree with the protestors’ methods, their “teach-ins” I suppose show a priority to learn).  Moreover, Emma’s tone is very unprofessional and not helping her win much CMC support.
         Moreover, “No one cares about liberals at CMC and what they have to say?”  Really?  Most people at CMC are both politically engaged and intelligent, and usually intelligent, politically engaged people are (or should be) willing to debate and listen to the other side.  I know that is why I attended the lecture, at the very least.  Therefore, even if CMCers are overwhelmingly conservative (and I actually think we are fairly evenly split) they should (and I think do, at least in my experience) take note of the liberals on campus.  
         Other than those two less-than-perfect quotes, excellent article Ana!

  • guest

    Does anyone know if her speech was filmed / is online somewhere? Or if it was transcribed and is now online? Might want to quote her for a paper.

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