Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th Secretary of State of the United States, discussed the international political landscape during a wide-ranging lecture before 1,000 people in Baker Hall on Tuesday night.
Albright’s visit was part of the Kenner Lecture on Cultural Understanding and Tolerance, an endowed lecture series in the College of Arts and Sciences established by Jeffrey L. Kenner ’65. While here, she also met with undergraduate students from all three colleges. In her talk, Albright urged the audience to choose compassion and understanding over conflict and unrest.
“One of the great advantages of serving as Secretary of State was the perspective it brought. It was my responsibility to defend U.S. positions, but also to listen,” said Albright. “The challenge for our leaders is not to eliminate the diversity of perspectives, for that is not possible. The challenge is to manage them, and when necessary moderate them, so that we are not defined primarily by what keeps us apart.”
Albright’s father was a Czech diplomat, and her family was forced into exile in England during World War II. She eventually moved to the U.S., earning a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government. She also holds a certificate from Columbia’s Russian Institute.
“Because of my background I also developed a deep interest in public affairs and a lifelong belief in the importance of American leadership,” said Albright, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in May 2012.
Prior to her appointment as Secretary of State, Albright served as the permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997. The author of five New York Times bestsellers, she is now a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Albright was effusive in her praise of Lehigh, and she encouraged students to strive for excellence.
“The pursuit of knowledge is what a Lehigh education is all about,” said Albright. “Whether your particular passion is science, art, literature or some other passion, you will be asked throughout your life to identify and defend what you consider to be true. “You have a beautiful campus, a brilliant faculty, students from almost everywhere, and an outstanding president.”
Albright also thanked Kenner for making the evening possible. “The Kenner Lecture on Cultural Understanding and Tolerance at Lehigh is one of the more provocative events of its type,” she said. “It takes on the challenge of celebrating human diversity, while at the same time recognizing how much we all have in common.”