Thursday, January 19, 2012

Condoleezza Rice to Baylor Students on Career Choice, Footnote by Gene Autry

Condoleezza Rice
Baylor Magazine

I see from my latest issue of Baylor Magazine (Winter 2011-12) -- a publication of my undergraduate alma mater -- that Ms. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, visited Baylor University on November 9, 2011 for "On Topic" (video), a series of conversations about contemporary issues led by Baylor president Kenneth Starr, and among the interesting things that she imparted were a couple of related remarks about 'choosing' one's career:
You have to find something that you love to do, and I am very fortunate that I found what I was passionate about, even though I thought what I was passionate about was that I was going to be a concert pianist. I had studied music from the age of 3; I could read music before I could read. And I went off in the summer of my sophomore year to the Aspen Music Festival School, where a lot of prodigies studied. And I met 13 year olds who could play from sight everything that had taken me all year to learn; I was 17. And I thought, "I'm about to end up teaching 13 years olds to murder Beethoven or maybe playing at Nordstrom's, but I am not going to play at Carnegie Hall" . . . . I decided to look for another major. I took a course in international politics; it was taught by a Soviet specialist, and I loved it. And that's how I got interested in international politics. Once I found what I loved to do, my passion, I felt that I wanted to get good at it. So I learned to speak Russian, and I worked very hard. And then I found people who helped me along the way . . . . So that's why I'm blessed to be doing the things that I'm doing now, but it all started with finding something that I absolutely loved to do. So to you college students out there, . . . I just say one thing. When my students ask me, "How do I become like you?" -- in other words, "How do I become secretary of state?" -- I say, "You start as a failed piano major. Don't plan every step of your life. Life takes funny turns."

Later in the conversation, she picked up the same theme, referring back to the university course in international politics that set her on her life's course:
I took that course in international politics, and that was it. So to the students, I would say, if you have not yet found what you're passionate about, keep looking, number one. Secondly, if you're looking for it, you may feel that you're not ever going to find it, but it may find you, as international politics found me. Third, when you finally find it, go for it. And don't be deterred by those who might say, "You want to study what?" Because the idea that a black woman from Birmingham, Alabama, ought to be a Soviet specialist is pretty farfetched, right? Just because you look a particular way or you are a particular gender, don't let anybody define your passion for you on that basis . . . . [F]ind somebody who's interested in your career. We have a strange idea that your role model has to look like you. Now, if I had been waiting for a black, woman, Soviet-specialist role model, I'd still be waiting. My role models, and actually my mentors were white men; in fact, old white men, because those were the people who were in my field. So just find somebody who is interested in you. It doesn't matter what they look like.

Pretty good advice, I think. I followed some of her suggestions in advance, but my biggest career flaw has been my radical, intemperate independence. One needs mentors to serve as guides, I now realize, and that never suited my temperament. My convoluted career, however, has taken me unexpected places. As the lady says, "Life takes funny turns." And it ain't through twisting around yet, I suppose.

I wouldn't want life's funny turns to take me on a 'twisted' career of the sort described below, however (and apologies for being unable to find an audio):
That's How I Got My Start

Gene Autry

When I grew up to be a man, I said I'd work no more.
But dad took me by the pants and kicked me out the door.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
My old man said, "Get out, you bum!" That's how I got my start.
Yo-duh-lay-dee, yuh-lay-dee, dee-duhl-dee-dee . . .

One time I did try working. My wages they were fair.
On payday, I got tipsy, then I got the air.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I drink a lot of moonshine; that's how I got my start.
Yo-duh-lay-dee, yuh-lay-dee, dee-duhl-dee-dee . . .

I had a wife that loved me, and I loved her, you know.
She caught me with another gal, then I had to go.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I run around with other gals; that's how I got my start.
Yo-duh-lay-dee, yuh-lay-dee, dee-duhl-dee-dee . . .

Last night I met a nice little gal. we had lots of fun.
But when I met her husband, he put me on the run.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
But when he started shootin', that's how I got my start.
Yo-duh-lay-dee, yuh-lay-dee, dee-duhl-dee-dee . . .

I been all around this country; been 'round most every place.
And all of the policemen have given me a chase.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I do the best that I can do; that's how I got my start.
Yo-duh-lay-dee, yuh-lay-dee, dee-duhl-dee-dee . . .

Don't let those twists and turns take you for this sort of whirl through life! But if this is what you make of your life, just remember that no one is useless. You can always serve as a bad example . . .

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At 7:01 AM, Blogger Lady Kālikā said...

Of course, that's all provided that you don't have people following you around trying to sabotage everything you work hard for to achieve all your life...and provided that you have parents to help you out - yeah, then, everything will work out...I am sure.

At 7:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, there is that . . . or those. Fortunately, no one has followed me around, though some 'friends' have failed me at crucial times. I guess that comes with the 'terratory' (life on earth). I also didn't manage to choose rich parents, unlike some lucky terrestrials. My grandparents, however, did all they could . . . short of money (which they also lacked).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm..Sounds like LK has had some difficulties in the past. I cannot say I have ever felt like someone was trying to "get" me for any reason, or stop me from trying to achieve any goals. As with Jeff, many of us from the rural Ozarks came from very humble backgrounds. There was not a lot of money or opportunities where we grew up, but a large part of our class broke loose and have been successful in our individual endeavors. Maybe it was because we were such a hard-headed group.


At 8:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've learned to define success more humbly the older I get. Am I still breathing this morning? Success!

At least, I've not yet achieved the 'success' of that character in Gene Autry's song . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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