Condoleezza Rice struck a powerful chord with the audience. It wasn’t just the eloquence of her words or the strength of her delivery. It was that she was delivering a 21st-century version of Ronald Reagan’s message.
Last night, she said: “You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion. It is an idea. And what an idea it is. That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.”
People of a certain age might have caught an echo of what Reagan said 20 years ago, at what would be his last convention speech: “We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are, but must, instead, start finding out who we are. In America, our origins matter less than our destinations and that is what democracy is all about.”
Paul Ryan also had strong moments, such as his declaration that even presidents need reminding “that our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” It will annoy Democrats to learn that he was alluding to JFK’s inaugural: “And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”