Condoleezza Rice speaks to SCHS students

Published 12:04 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018


COLUMBIANA – Hundreds of Shelby County High School students will remember December 2018 as the month when former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited their school.

Rice spoke to students one morning in a private assembly kept under wraps until after she had left.

“She had said she wanted it to be a student event, but not a press event,” SCHS principal Barbara Snyder said. “This was a rare kind of occasion for her to do this, but it was amazing.”

Snyder said Rice’s visit was her way of saying thanks to SCHS senior McKinley Morris’s grandparents for their long-time relationship with Rice’s aunt and uncle.

“She wanted it to be a school assembly for kids,” Snyder said. “She talked about pursuing your passion, what wakes you up at night because you’re so interested in pursuing that. She talked about being good to people, being a humanitarian, public service and accomplishing big things, no matter where you come from.”

Prior to the assembly, Rice offered a “VIP room” in which anyone the school selected could sit down and have a conversation with her.

“I thought, ‘What would be the best way for her visit to reverberate in our building and carry on for years to come?’” Snyder said. “I gave my spot to AP Government teacher Stephanie Nettles, and I decided to put students in front of her. To be able to hear from someone of her stature and her humble attitude, I just thought that can be a lifelong learning experience.”

Snyder and Shelby County Schools Superintendent-elect Dr. Lewis Brooks were allowed to attend the VIP room session.

At the end of her speech, Rice invited questions from students.

“Students could ask her anything,” Snyder said. “Nothing was off-limits. I had no idea what students were going to ask.”

Snyder said one student asked Rice about how nuclear energy could be better used in the U.S.

Another student asked her how she remains humble when meeting with dignitaries.

Another student asked if she would ever run for president—a question likely on multiple peoples’ minds.

“She said while she loves policy, she was not a big fan of politics, and that’s not who she is,” Snyder said.

End-of-semester exams didn’t keep the majority of students from attending the assembly, she said, adding they gave her their full attention.

“I told her this is the most quiet our student body has ever been for anything in the building,” Snyder said. “You could have heard a pin drop in the room.”

City leaders including Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley were allowed to attend the assembly.

“I’ve always admired her very much,” Handley said of Rice. “She exudes class and elegance. It was an honor to see her in Columbiana, and what an honor for our students.”

“She is humble and gracious and poised,” Snyder said. “She just captivates a room, and she’s so down-to-earth.”