Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 2013

One on One With Condoleezza Rice

By Susan Sarfati, CAE

is to be true to your conscience. It is simply something we must do.

As we conclude, please share your dreams for the 21st century.

I hope that the basic pyramid becomes very broad, so that all people have the opportunity to get to the top of it. Here in the U.S., it relates to a quality education system and integration by bringing people from around the world together.

The universal message that you can come from humble circumstances and still have the opportunity to do great things must become a reality. Everybody deserves freedom; everybody deserves an equal opportunity to advance. We are already closer to a more peaceful world. We must push it further and work harder.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I want to add mybelief in the power of stories. Some people think if you are telling stories you're not being analytical. When I speak, I use stories a lot. I would encourage those who speak or are convening people to share powerful, real-life stories.

Is there a particular story that has stuck with you throughout the years?

I tell one that encapsulates why authoritarianism isn't going to last around the world. We were in Romania in 2005, and the Romanian people told us about the time when the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu went into a public square in Budapest and was telling people what he had done for them.

All of a sudden, one elderly wo man yelled, “Liar!” into the crowd, and then 10 people and then hundreds and then thousands yelled the same word. He and his wife Elena were eventually executed — and it sticks in my mind that the moment people let go of fear, when a policeman or soldier refuses to fire into the crowd or moves away from the Berlin Wall, people assert themselves.

That story about Ceausescu has stuck with me as a powerful way that people were sharing a vivid image of why authoritarianism can't last. There always will be one brave person in the crowd. And [the message] is best communicated by a story.

Susan Sarfati,
CAE, is CEO of High Performance Strategies LLC (sarfatihighperformance.com), which focuses on organizational assessments, innovative thinking in organizational strategy, leadership and management, moving from ideas to execution, and building a human-focused learning culture. She served as CEO of The Greater Washington Society of Association Executives and executive vice president of ASAE. She can be reached at susan@ssarfati.com.

This interview is presented courtesy of the Washington Speakers Bureau.

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