On May 28th, the George & Barbara Bush Foundation partnered with the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University to host an online event featuring former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow. More than 1,400 Foundation and Bush School guests logged on to experience this distinguished duo discussing their recently released book, To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth, as well as a wide range of past and current global issues.
The evening began with opening remarks from Governor Jeb Bush – who recognized both Drs. Rice and Zelikow for their hard work as respected diplomats for both his father and his brother – followed by moderator Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, the Glasscock Professor of History at Texas A&M and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
On the unification of Germany in 1990, Secretary Rice recalled: “There were real dangers that a country with 30,000 nuclear weapons, five million men under arms, was not going to go gently into the night and watch 40 years of investment into the communist system in Eastern Europe simply go away. So that had to be managed. And we’re here being hosted by the George H. W. Bush School, and I have to say … one of the important things we need to remember is the degree to which quiet leadership by George H. W. Bush, that didn’t make himself the center of attention, that gave others their pride of place in these great events, actually made it possible to manage what could have been a very dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union on what would be the fate of Germany.”
Drs. Rice and Zelikow went on to reveal their firsthand experience shaping the decisions that created the contemporary world, the current state of the world, as well as the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We live in a world where there are a lot of different problems,” Dr. Zelikow observed. “It’s easier to cause problems than to fix problems. The one thing that both Condi and I both share is a passion for trying to fix things – not just break things. Fixing things is really, really hard … take the pandemic in which we find ourselves right now. It was always going to be easier to close things down than open them up. There are all of these super-hard issues we’re now confronting.”
Drs. Rice and Zelikow concluded the evening by discussing the current mindset of Americans wanting to help our nation but unsure of the best way how. Secretary Rice reflected once again on the wisdom and ‘quiet leadership’ she learned from President Bush stating, “Free peoples are very, very fortunate peoples indeed. And we still have to stand for those who are not.”