Dr. Condoleezza Rice may be our personal teacher. If we could ask her, what would she tell us?
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, with a stellar resume, joined President George W. Bush as his national security advisor. An only child, her parents bestowed upon her an unusual name: Condoleezza based on the Italian musical form, con dolcessa, which translates to “play with sweetness.”
Raised with her parent’s belief in her, she often said, “my parents couldn't sit at the Woolworth counter, but they believed I could be president.” Despite their belief, life for a young black girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960’s, she experienced racism, explaining that Birmingham was known as “Bombing ham,” so violent were the times she lived in.
Once, shopping with her mother, the saleswoman suggested that Condoleezza use the storeroom as a fitting room. Her mother politely explained that her daughter would “either try them on in the dressing room or not at all.”
A different experience may have rattled her but not for long when her family went to a drive-in hamburger restaurant. One can only imagine her dismay “when we drove away, I bit into my hamburger—and it was all onions.”
What “power advice” might you share for a care partner? Dr. Rice believes that “Power is nothing unless you can turn it into influence.” According to Condoleezza Rice, “you're never really fulfilled unless you find something you love, and a lot of people, particularly women, spend so much time taking care of everybody else that they don't have time to learn what they love doing,” but understand “that passion may be hard to spot, so keep an open mind and keep searching.”
Where are the freedoms for a care partner? Dr. Rice explains that freedom “means the opportunity to soar as high as you possibly can. It means people are not going to judge you or put a block in your way because of how you look, what language you speak, or where you came from. But freedom is not the ability to do anything you want—that is a misrepresentation. There is a responsibility that comes with freedom: so use it well.” As care partners, we have the freedom to choose how we will live our lives while providing care.
How can we make decisions as care partners? “Never forget how hard it is to make complex decisions when you don’t have all the information you’d like, but you don’t have the luxury of not making a decision,” Dr. Rice challenges her students at Stanford: You must decide for the right reasons, right motivations – how to have the courage to take risks. How do we trust ourselves and our instincts? Follow our passions for they will teach us what we need to know.
A life lesson from Dr. Rice: “You might not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your response to your circumstances,” adding that “life if full of surprises and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns.”