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Condoleezza Rice to speak at Al Smith Dinner in New York

Condoleezza Rice

paparazzza | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 10/03/21 - updated on 10/03/21

Former Secretary of State was national security advisor on 9/11 20 years ago.

Condoleezza Rice, who was national security advisor under President George W. Bush at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks, will be the keynote speaker at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner this month, 20 years after 9/11.

Currently director of the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University, Rice also served as U.S. Secretary of State under Bush — the second woman and the first black woman to hold the post. 

The 76th annual Al Smith Dinner, one of the New York social scene’s most celebrated events, will be held Thursday evening, October 21, at the Javits Center Extension in Manhattan. Last year, the foundation was unable to host a live event, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, it is requiring all attendees to show proof of vaccination against COVID. 

The event will celebrate the dinner’s diamond jubilee. 

“For over 75 years the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation has sponsored the cultural event of the fall season in New York City, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner,” the foundation said in a press release. “Presidents, dignitaries, journalists, religious and civic leaders have graced the podium with wit, insight, and commentary, often delivering messages that speak uniquely to the times. The Al Smith Dinner exists for the purpose of helping the most vulnerable members of society: children and their families. Inspired by the example of the organization’s namesake, Governor Alfred E. Smith, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation is committed to the mission of bringing hope to the neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York, regardless of race, creed, or culture.”

Al Smith was the first Catholic to become a presidential nominee from one of the major political parties. He came to be known as the Happy Warrior, a moniker first given him when Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his 1924 nomination speech. The foundation will present its “Happy Warrior” Award, which is “given to an accomplished individual known to embody the spirit of generosity and goodwill” for which Smith was known, to Frank Bennack Jr., who served as CEO of the Hearst Corporation for nearly three decades.

Greetings from President Bush

The evening will also feature prerecorded video remarks by President George W. Bush, himself a former Smith Dinner keynote speaker, in honor of the diamond anniversary.

Rice has been a leading voice on foreign policy and a critical actor on the international stage at pivotal moments in U.S. history. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she served as Stanford University’s provost from 1993 to 1999. In 1997, she also served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military.

From 1989 through March 1991, Rice served on President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, serving as director and senior director of Soviet and East European Affairs. In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice also served as special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

As a professor of political science, Rice has been on the Stanford faculty since 1981. She has authored and coauthored numerous books, including two best sellers, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington (2011) and Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family (2010). 

She holds a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, which also awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1995.

“Dr. Rice’s commitment to truth, our country’s enduring values, and the American enterprise, not only captures the cultural legacy of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on this Diamond Anniversary, but she points the way forward,” the foundation said. 

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