The last days of September brought something pretty amazing to Indianapolis, a conservative city in America’s heartland. Two of America’s and the world’s most powerful women who are also African American both spoke to standing-room-only audiences. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and poet, author, educator, social activist, playwright, producer & director Maya Angelou both came to the city coined the Crossroads of America to emphasize education and share their wisdom.
Former Secretary Rice addressed an audience of 800 at Light of the World Christian Church which was sponsored by The Mind Trust. She was introduced by local business leader, Al Hubbard, who served in both Bush administrations, who revealed her competitiveness on the golf course. Looking very fit and trim, Dr. Rice discussed her parents’ focus on getting a good education while growing up in Alabama. She stated simply that “education is the civil rights issue of our time” and added, “the crisis in K- 12 education is our greatest national security crisis today.” She left the stage with a security detail during a standing ovation. Earlier in the day at a $50-a-plate luncheon at the Columbia Club, Rice promoted her newest book, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington. Rice is a graduate of Notre Dame University, received her Ph.D. in Russian studies and is currently a professor of Political Economy at the Stanford University graduate school of business. She expressed being a big fan of Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck who is a former quarterback of Stanford.
Butler University’s Celebration of Diversity Distinguished Lecture Series honored its first lecturer, Dr. Maya Angelou, by bringing her back after its 25th Anniversary. Angelou, now 85, presented an enthralling address to 2,200 fans full of wisdom, humor and poetry in Clowes Memorial Hall which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Dr. Angelou, considered a global Renaissance woman, recited from memory at least half a dozen poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Shakespeare and Indianapolis’ own Mari Evans. She confessed Dunbar to be her favorite poet after Indy’s Evans. Her theme revolved around a scripture in the Bible’s book of Genesis on how we each can find a rainbow in the clouds for inspiration and be another’s rainbow at critical times in their lives. She spoke of how her grandmother and uncle Willie in the little town of Stamps, Arkansas rescued her and gave her unconditional love and a good education. Dr. Angelou studied dance under Martha Graham, worked for Malcolm X and later for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was invited to recite her poem On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. She has written over 30 titles and her best-selling autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is still widely acclaimed. She is currently a lecturer at Wake Forest University and has received 71 honorary doctorate degrees from universities across the globe.