by Rebekah Bresee
Cowles Auditorium was filled with the standing ovation of 1,910 audience members as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the stage for a Q&A on Oct. 9.
For the past year, President Beck Taylor and his advisors worked with Rice and her team to bring her to Whitworth as part of the President’s Leadership Forum. The series brings speakers to Whitworth who discuss current and relevant topics, Taylor said.
“She rose to be a very powerful and influential leader and any time we get to highlight that is exciting,” Taylor said.
Rice was chosen because of her compelling and interesting story as well as her role as an influential leader in politics in the past two decades, Taylor said.
The questions asked were a compilation of questions from students and political science professors Julia Stronks and Kathy Lee.
Rice addressed her upbringing in segregated Birmingham, Ala., her faith, education and how she became involved in politics. She talked about her involvement in Soviet Russian studies, race relations in the U.S. and the Sept. 11 crisis as well as the war that followed.
“I think people are eager to hear from someone who was in the ring and dealt with controversial issues,” Taylor said.
As a Presbyterian, Rice discussed how her faith related and sometimes conflicted with her political work. She argued that faith and reason should be compatible concepts, not contradicting ones. Taylor related that concept to Whitworth’s mission of providing “an education of mind and heart.”
“Her leadership, faith and ideas resonate with the Whitworth mission,” Taylor said.
The Q&A ended with Rice discussing her new role in the inaugural College Football Playoff committee. Students were invited to a book signing following the Q&A.
Ninety-five percent of the expense for Rice’s appearance was covered through sponsors and ticket prices with a small amount for advertising paid by the university, said Maxine Lammers, the director of corporate and foundation relations.
Lammers’ job is to build relationships with corporations and foundations so that she may easily find sponsors to compensate for the cost of bringing in national speakers to Whitworth.
“As I look at sponsorships, I always try to find a good match that applies to the speaker,” Lammers said.
A contract between Rice and the university that stated the cost of the event could not be announced, that Rice needed a private jet, food and drink preferences and that she would not stay over night, Lammers said.
Edward and Beatriz Schweitzer, located in Pullman, provided the jet service for Rice, Lammers said. Other sponsors included Wells Fargo, Avista, STCU and Greater Spokane Incorporated, to name a few.
“I approached [those sponsors] because it is a solid fit with what they’re doing in the community,” Lammers said.
In return, each sponsor was provided a table for 10 people at the President’s Leadership Forum, a downtown luncheon at which about 2,300 people heard Rice speak. Sponsors were also invited to a private reception with Rice as a way to say “thank you” for their participation, Lammers said.
Extra security measures were implemented for Rice’s visit. Local law enforcement and Rice’s security team worked together to make the event safe and civil, Taylor said.
“We’ve been working for a month with local security, campus security and we’ve talked with the Spokane Sheriff,” Taylor said.
The university received a “thank you” note from the Washington Speaker’s Bureau as a result of positive comments about Whitworth made by Rice and her aides, Lammers said.
“I think it was such a privilege to have her,” Lammers said.
Contact Rebekah Bresee at email@example.com