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While School of Public Policy director Jack Mintz (l) and Mayor Dave Bronconnier were pleased to have former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the keynote speaker for the school's inaugural address, others like Joanne Costello were outraged.
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Contentious Condi visits Calgary

U of C School of Public Policy kicks off with controversial keynote

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Condoleezza Rice, following in the footsteps of her cohort from the recent republican regime, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, gave a speech to welcoming Calgarians on Wednesday night.

The former U.S. Secretary of State's talk was the keynote address at the opening of the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, a pan-university institute aiming to bring together the large number of people already working on public policy on campus.

Rice addressed the need to continue valuing competition in society, at a time when the policy model of low taxes and low regulations is under attack.

"Today's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same," said Rice, speaking to a crowd of just over 11,000 politicians, business leaders and academics.

The choice of Rice as the inaugural speaker was met with alarm from many students and concerned Calgarians.

Joanne Costello, a social work graduate student at the U of C, was concerned that Rice would set the institute on the wrong path.

"The opening gala sets a tone and stage for the type of policy and the underlying values that policy school will represent," she said, noting that the choice of Rice spoke to the deep conservative roots of the city.

Rice lauded the idea of having a public policy school of international calibre in Canada, stressing the importance of a strong, educated public service.

"When you're in government you don't have time to think, you just have time to act," she said, pointing to the indispensable benefits of the thorough debate and research around policy issues conducted by academia.

Jack Mintz, director of the school and a major player in its launch, said that despite Rice's controversial actions while in public office, her strong academic background was key to why she was chosen for the address. Rice has returned to academia since leaving office and is a senior fellow on public policy at the Hoover Institution and professor of political science at Stanford University.

Although Mintz stressed that Rice's policy decisions would not be a model for the school, as he presented Rice with a gift as she left the stage he thanked her for "how much you've contributed to our thinking about public policy."

"If [Mintz] thinks that pushing the world to the brink of a global recession is good policy, I'm not sure what he thinks is bad policy," said Costello.

In an effort to get the university to rescind its invitation to the notable American, Costello collected over 300 signatures.

Beyond the direction that Rice's policy decisions could take the school, Costello said that inviting Rice as the speaker raised questions about the integrity of the university as a whole.

"International law would consider her actions illegal," said Costello. "This ranges from an illegal war, to the use of torture, to the spread of misinformation or deceitful propaganda to launch an invasion against two nations. Estimates now suggest that over a million Iraqis have died as a result."

As guests ­-- who helped to raise over $1 million for the school -- enjoyed a meal of dried bison, elk pepperoni and Alberta beef tenderloin inside the Hyatt Regency Calgary, approximately two dozen protestors gathered outside to voice their discontent.

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