What a couple of weeks for Condoleezza Rice: This week she was one first women to be offered membership at Augusta National golf course, and next week she'll be addressing the Republican National Convention in a primetime speaking slot Wednesday night. The Augusta National membership is just another "first" for her, after serving as our first female national security adviser, our first female African-American secretary of state, and the first female, first African-American, and youngest person ever named provost of Stanford University. She was once called "the most prominent amateur musician in the world," for her talent as a concert pianist. Her father was the grandson of slaves and she wrote about her four girlfriends from Birmingham who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in her book, Extraordinary, Ordinary Lives. What an extraordinary, ordinary life she's had.
Rice reportedly took up golf just seven years ago and is a 14 handicap. (She gives new golfers like me great hope!) Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA, told the AP, "At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, [the Augusta decision] sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport."
[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]
It's no accident that the first woman lead anchor on any sports network is Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel. The Golf Channel is now the fastest growing network on cable TV, which must be driving executives at CNN and MSNBC nuts. These days, golf is becoming increasingly popular among young girls. Credit for that goes to First Tee, which, over the last decade or so, has introduced the game of golf and its character-building values to millions of young girls and boys. Golf will be an Olympic sport starting in 2016—another boost to its popularity worldwide, especially among young fans.
The members of Augusta National were smart to invite Rice to join. She's a great ambassador for the sport, especially to young women and minorities. The guys in the green jackets see the same thing the guys at the Republican National Convention see: Despite being one of the most highly accomplished women of our time, Condi Rice comes across as a real person. People may not agree with all of her foreign policy positions, but they like and respect her.
Despite the fact that the left likes to point out that she's never held elective office, she has great appeal to women voters. I can't tell you how many women have pulled me aside over the last few months to say they were pulling for her to be Romney's running mate; Rasmussen and Fox News polls taken earlier this summer had her ranked as the runaway favorite for VP among voters. Her primetime convention speech Wednesday night will show Democrats why.
Rice only has to say one sentence to African-American voters who have buyers' remorse over their vote for Barack Obama four years ago: "It's okay to make a change." She doesn't need to attack him or go negative. She should just reassure black voters who are from the South, like she is, that there's nothing wrong with changing one's mind. People will listen to Condoleezza Rice.