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Among the most inspiring public figures in America is National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice combines powerful intellect with a first-rate ability to communicate, and she is at President Bush’s right hand throughout every international crisis.
Dr. Rice spent six years as the Provost of Stanford University prior to joining the administration, and had served the first President Bush on his National Security Council Staff. She holds three degrees from the University of Denver and Notre Dame University, and is an accomplished pianist. I played on my radio show the remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year, in which she recounted her Presbyterian upbringing and the powerful influence of her Christian faith upon her life, and the audience demanded I replay it twice more.
Dr. Rice is the perfect example of a Christian of mature faith and extraordinary ability at work in the world without any sign of succumbing to the pitfalls of that world. In the hope that there might be thousands like her in the future – as there have been in the past – I wrote “In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire To Influence the World.”
Success in public life is almost never accidental. Rather, it is the product of disciplined effort over many years, but especially the years from 21 to 30 when young professionals develop the habits and the networks that allow them to gather influence for the years ahead. The second phase of an adult’s career, from about 30 to about 45, is the set-up for the years of maximum impact. If the first two phases are botched, it can be hard, though not impossible, to recover from those stumbles.
Christians, especially, are more than a little haphazard when it comes to planning for influence in the world. There is an entire strain of Christian theology that renounces worldly power because of the temptations that power brings with it, and there is a caucus within American Christianity that seems to believe it is divinely ordained that believers ought to be given power and deferred to. Both extremes destroy potential.
“In, But Not Of” is based on the premise that Christians are called to public life and that they need to be very disciplined in acquiring the skills and traits the world values. On one level, it is the most practical of books and restates obvious truths about career-building that were around long before Dale Carnegie popularized them, but which bear repeating every generation.
On a different level, though, the book is an argument about why all people of faith – and especially Christians – need to take their role in the world seriously. The struggles of this new, very young century have already revealed that the years ahead will be full of struggles between good and evil, and the outcome is very much in doubt. Without people like Dr. Rice, the American experiment doesn’t stand much of a chance – because most of the evil forces in the world target the United States, since the United States is the beacon for freedom and an example of a free people living unmolested by dictators.
So I hope you’ll make a list of the young people – and by young I do mean under 45 – who have the raw material of achievement within them. Send them the book with a note explaining your confidence in them. Some will be in the military, some in law or medicine, and some in academia, the church itself, or any of the professions. We need not only their good intentions. We need them to succeed as well.