Condoleeza Rice on Civil Rights

Maybe you saw this exchange wherein Newt Gingrich rips into Chris Matthews for associating every word having to do with failure or dysfunction with African Americans.

What's even more ridiculous is Matthews and others complaining that when Mitt Romney said a week or two ago that the President should take his Chicago values home, that "Chicago" is now a racist term.

That's just nuts. When I think of the Chicago Way or the Chicago Machine, black people are the furthest thing from my mind. I think about the Daleys, Al Capone, and dead white folk "voting" from the grave. It's a lily-white dysfunction in terms of the images it conjures in my head. (Here's my sanity check.)

Good for Newt. Matthews' attitude in that exchange exemplifies why I so often say (jokingly, for the overly earnest among us), "Die, Boomers, Die." There's an utter inability to see things through any lens but that of the 1960s.

I've been thinking the past two days about Condi Rice's parents -- ever since her magnificent speech at the GOP convention two nights ago. I knew her biography, but I'd never heard her address the Civil Rights movement before, nor have I heard her speak about what America is: the land of the Declaration, not the land of grievance and envy. I appreciated her calling our failing schools the civil rights issue of our time. First she reminded us that equal opportunity  and equality before the law is the birthright of all Americans:
We have been successful too because Americans have known that one's status of birth is not a permanent condition. Americans have believed that you might not be able to control your circumstances but you can control your response to your circumstances.
Then she asked a devastating question:
today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going?
 She continues:
The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are. My mom was a teacher.  I respect the profession.  We need great teachers, not poor ones and not mediocre ones.  We have to have high standards for our kids, because self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.
And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools.  This is the civil rights issue of our day. 
If we do anything less, we can damage generations to joblessness and hopelessness and life on the government dole.  If we do anything less, we will endanger our global imperatives for competitiveness.  And if we do anything less, we will tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement the turn toward entitlement and grievance.
That is a high-minded means of calling out both the cronyism of our teachers' unions and the "soft bigotry of low expectations" on the part of Chris Matthews and his ilk. She's dead right. This is not just an education problem; it's also the key to our race problem. And the fact that figures on both the Right and Left seem to be getting serious about this (I'm thinking about the triumph of Scott Walker; Waiting for Superman; Michelle Rhee; and the collaboration of Cory Booker and Chris Christie in New Jersey) is where I place my hope for the final fulfillment of King's dream.
Which brings me back to Condi's parents. Rice ended her remarks on a personal note that brought tears to my eyes. 
a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham.  The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced her that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the Secretary of State.
How did Martin Luther King Jr. and people like Condi's parents come to believe so in America's creed when they were on the brunt end of what Condi called our national birth defect? I admire them so much. Why were they confident that things would and could be better? What could they see that Chris Matthews cannot?