Moments after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exited the stage at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, the reviews were in: best speech of the night, if not the convention so far.
She began her remarks by recalling the fateful events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"From that day on, our sense of vulnerability and our concepts of security were never the same again," she said. "Then, in 2008, the global financial and economic crisis would stun us. And it still reverberates as we deal with unemployment and economic uncertainty and bad policies that cast a pall over an American economy and a recovery that is desperately needed at home and abroad."
Rice said that Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan would rebuild the economy, which is the foundation of the nation's strength, and warned of the effect of President Obama "leading from behind," or worse, not leading at all.
"There will be chaos or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values," Rice said. "We do not have a choice, we cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind."
Rice also made a poignant reference to her childhood in the South that was punctuated by rampant racism and discrimination.
"And on a personal note: a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham — the most segregated big city in America. Her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be president of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State," she concluded to roaring applause and cheers of "USA! USA!"
Ryan, accepting his party's vice presidential nomination, also said that Obama lacks the ability to get the nation back on course.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House,” he said. “What’s missing is leadership in the White House.”
Making the case for the top of the ticket, he said, "After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Gov. Mitt Romney."
Ryan laced his speech with humor, mocking Romney's taste for what he described as elevator music, while his own play list starts with AC/DC and ends with Led Zeppelin.
He also poked fun at the enthusiasm of young voters who helped propel him to the top four years ago, who now face a much gloomier future than they'd anticipated.
“College graduates should not have to live out their twenties in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” he said to laughter and applause.
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(Photos from left: Win McNamee/Getty Images, Scott Olson/Getty Images)