TAMPA---Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the stage Wednesday night at the Republican Party convention, offering foreign policy advice and support for GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. It's been a convention uncharacteristically silent on issues of war and peace as most Americans' top concern is the stagnant economy, but Rice wove the two together.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of our strength, the American economy," Rice said. "There is no country, no not even a rising China, that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves, if we do not do the hard work before us here at home."
The overflowing audience burst into applause throughout her address, but one of biggest applause lines came when Rice skewered the self-described tactic of "leading from behind" during the Obama administration's intervention in Libya.
"One of two things will happen if we don't lead: no one will lead and there will be chaos or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values," Rice said. "We do not have a choice, we cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind."
Foreign policy under a Romney/Ryan administration "will be reliable and insistent and determined," she added. "Peace really does come through strength."
Rice also spoke of the American dream and connected it to her own experiences.
"It doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you are going," she said. "Ours has been a belief in opportunity and it has been a constant struggle, long and hard, up and down, to try to extend the benefits of the American dream to all."
Rice touched on the importance of a comprehensive energy policy and expanding school choice to more students suffering from poor school districts.
And while Rice, speaking from written notes, was largely professorial in tone, turned to a stirring personal anecdote at the climax of her address.
"On a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the segregated city of the south, where her parents can't take her to a theater or a restaurant, but they have her absolutely convinced that even if she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth, she could be president of the United States if she wanted to be and she becomes the Secretary of State," she said.
After the speech, Texas delegate Susan Blackstone said she likes Rice because "she has a world view, which is really critical in today's world."
"She understands the struggles of people in other countries and she is able to articulate it back to us," Blackstone says. "Most of us trust her."