ELGIN – Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday told a standing-room only crowd that if those in attendance don’t find their passion, it will find them.
“Life has a funny way of making those odd turns,” Rice said. “Embrace those turns.”
Rice touched on multiple topics during her keynote address at Judson University’s 2014 World Leaders Forum. More than 600 students, staff and community members filled the University’s Herrick Chapel to listen to Rice.
In addition to talking about her years in Washington, D.C., during the George W. Bush administration, Rice was asked about the ongoing crisis of Russia moving to annex Crimea in southern Ukraine.
“We have to send strong enough signals so [Russian President Vladmir] Putin doesn’t misevaluate and move further west,” she told Cheryl Burton, moderator and ABC Channel 7 anchor, during an on-stage question-and-answer session.
The topic came up again during an impromptu dialogue between Rice and Ukrainian student Anatoliy Tkach. He ended up speaking to her when Burton asked for a volunteer to speak Russian with Rice.
Tkach, who came from the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi, said his best friend overseas said the crisis seems more like a battle between the U.S. and Russia and doesn’t really involve Ukrainians. This time Rice emphasized that democracy is for every human being.
“My feeling is that this should be a decision for the Ukrainian people,” she said of the annexation.
Tkach, who was one of 20 students chosen to sit on stage during Rice’s appearance, called the unexpected dialogue the greatest experience of his life so far. He said he was humbled by Rice because he sees himself as a minority like her.
Tkach plans to offer a soccer ministry in his home village after he completes his sports and youth ministry studies at Judson.
Chicago resident Mary Jo Wilhelm said she also was inspired by Rice’s remarks.
“She encouraged people not to close off their life,” Wilhelm said. “There are possibilities still to come.”