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National Restaurant Association - Condoleezza Rice: Invest in human potential

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Condoleezza Rice: Invest in human potential

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told attendees at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show that America’s success depends on its commitment to invest in human potential.

Rice made her remarks at our May 20 Signature ‘18 event, saying that the greatest American ideal is the belief in human potential.

It's not where you come from, but where you're going

“Democracy is only as strong as its weakest link and right now we have too many weak links,” she said. “Human potential means understanding that the United States of America isn’t held together by ethnicity, nationality or religion, but by an aspiration, a belief that it doesn’t matter where you came from. It matters where you are going. You can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That, for years, allowed people to come from all over the world, just to be a part of that promise.”

She spoke of her admiration for her grandfather, who embodied this philosophy, and became the first member of her family to attend college. Rice attributes much of her success to his understanding that education holds the power to transform a person’s life and offers hope for a brighter future. He made sure to instill this belief into his children, which allowed generations of his family to realize their dreams. Her father became a university administrator and her aunt earned a Ph.D. in Victorian literature.

Education is the key to the future

She went on to say that the greatest challenge confronting America has become the lack of quality K-12 education.

“This is the greatest national security crisis,” she said. “If you are of means, you will move to a district where schools are good. Who’s really stuck in failing neighborhood schools? Poor kids. We’re creating two societies: one capable and one not. For a country held together by the belief that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going, that will be the end of us. America has a human potential problem. We can’t have any more third-graders who can’t read.”

Rice continued by applauding the restaurant industry’s efforts to provide apprenticeships and training to help employees become job-ready.

“We can’t have any more 18-year-olds without skills,” she said. “Not everyone has to go to college, but everyone needs a job. I know your industry provides skills for our kids. I hope there are more efforts to let 18-, 19-, or 20-year-olds get training so they can enter the workforce prepared and able to have what we all know work brings ‑‑ a sense of self-worth, not just a paycheck. And we can’t have anymore 35-year-olds who can’t be retrained either, because job skills these days don’t remain stagnant. You must keep training and retraining.”

Help develop human potential

She implored Show guests to think about retraining employees before automating them out of their jobs. It’s not just industrialization or globalization that has caused people to drop out of the job market, she said. Automation plays a big role, too. “Before you automate people out of your workforce, think about retraining them. We have a responsibility to develop human potential.”

America is best at mobilizing human potential, she added. “ 'We The People' is an inclusive concept,” she said. “If we do this, the country will be confident again.”

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