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Signature '18

National Restaurant Association President & CEO Dawn Sweeney had a lively conversation with 66th Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about global economics, immigration, and how the restaurant industry can play a critical role.


Signature '18: Unleashing Potential

Dawn Sweeney opened Signature '18 with praise for the industry. As the nation's second-largest employment sector, with 15 million employees, she said, "Restaurants provide fundamental skills for careers and for life,"  adding that "people are our greatest asset."

Sweeney announced the Association's new ServSafe Workplace training platform, designed to create and sustain a positive work environment. She also spoke about ServSuccess, a new training program launching soon, that will offer three certification options to train and develop high-potential employees.

In pointed remarks about how the international economic system has changed, Condoleezza Rice noted that the answer to today's crisis is for the U.S. to build a more confident country at home and then go out and solve problems in the world.

Focusing on education as one powerful solution, Rice noted that America "can't have 18-year-olds who don't have a skill and I know your industry provides those skills."

Rice said she's confident that the U.S. will, in fact, regain its confidence. She believes that it will take putting our expertise in technology and innovation, as well as our educational system, to use in leveling the playing field for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or income level. "The crisis of K through 12 education is the greatest security crisis in the United States today," she said.

In the question-and-answer segment, Sweeney asked about the state of immigration. Rice related that one of her biggest regrets is that the George W. Bush administration was unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would have included both clear border protection and a path to citizenship for successful immigrants already in the country. Today, she said, "We need a more humane conversation about those who just want to better themselves."

Rice also challenged the restaurant industry when she spoke about middle-aged people who are not trained in using digital tools. "Before you automate people out of the workforce, you should think about how to retrain them," she said.

2018 Speakers

Condoleezza Rice

The 66th Secretary of State brings a unique perspective to her approach to business strategy, honed by years of public service and strategy consulting. From January 2005-2009, Rice served as the Secretary of State of the United States, the second woman and first African American woman to hold the post. Rice also served as President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor from January 2001-2005, the first woman to hold the position. Rice is currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution; and a professor of political science at Stanford University. She is also a founding partner of RiceHadleyGates, LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

Rice served as Stanford University’s provost from 1993-1999, during which time she was the institution's chief budget and academic officer.

Dawn Sweeney

As president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, Dawn Sweeney has been instrumental in focusing the mission of the Association through a unique, multi-year strategic plan, highlighting key areas of opportunity within the restaurant industry.

Sweeney has been named one of the perennial top association CEOs in the country for the past several years. She serves on the boards of the U.S. Travel Association and the Women’s Foodservice Forum and is an active member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100, the International Women’s Forum and the Committee of 200, an international network of female executives. She is also a charter member of Child Obesity 180, an initiative of private, public, non-profit, and academic leaders committed to helping prevent childhood obesity through evidence-based initiatives.