UPDATED — Following in her former boss’ footsteps, Condoleezza Rice will be the speaker for this year’s Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce annual meeting in December.
“The reaction we’re getting is rivaling the reaction we got back then,” said Gary Plummer, Chamber president and CEO.
“We think that the way she has broken down barriers, particularly for … African Americans and women, we think we’re going to have a very diverse audience as a result,” Plummer said.
A Birmingham, Ala., native, Rice is a pianist who once planned to become a concert pianist. Instead, she went on to earn her doctorate in international studies from the University of Denver.
Rice was the first black woman to be secretary of state and was known for extensive travel and work to expand democracies globally. She also restructured foreign policy in the United States with something she called transformational diplomacy to further her goal of creating more democratic governments.
More recently, Rice has been a political science professor at Stanford University, where she has been on the faculty since 1981.
“One of her programs that she’s well known for is an after-school academic-enrichment program,” Plummer said. He said Rice is an “exemplary” national leader who cares about the plight of those less fortunate.
“A well-educated workforce drives economic development and Dr. Rice is well-known for her expertise and passion for education,” said Wayne Chambers, 2014 Chamber chairman, in a statement. “We’re very focused on helping area businesses increase their expertise in exporting and we believe we can also benefit from her global perspective.”
On Tuesday, the Chamber teased Rice’s Dec. 4 appearance by saying this year’s speaker has ties to football. Rice is an avid Cleveland Browns fan, is on the College Football Playoff selection committee and has said her dream job would be National Football League commissioner.
The Chamber often selects political speakers for its annual meeting. George H.W. Bush spoke at the chamber’s annual meeting in 2005, and political strategists and husband and wife James Carville and Mary Matalin spoke together in 2006. Last year, Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton was the speaker.
“The line-up over the last 10 to 12 years is really remarkable,” Plummer said.
He said Rice has been on the Chamber’s short list of potential speakers for at least three years.
This year’s event will be from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Century II. Tickets are $115 for the dinner and reserved seating for the program. For those attending the program only, tickets range from $35 to $55. Tickets can be purchased at www.wichitachamber.org.
Within two hours of announcing Rice as its speaker, the Chamber reported that it sold seven tables for the event and added another top sponsor. A YouTube video to announce the speaker had more than 200 views within the same time.
Plummer said, “That’s a pretty dramatic response based on our experience around here.”