'Engagement better than confrontation' Madeleine Albright delivers annual Kenner Lecture at Lehigh
In 1948 at age 10, Madeleine Albright and her parents immigrated to the United States from her birthplace in Prague when the Communist Party took over the government of Czechoslovakia. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her Ambassador to the United Nations. Four years later she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the nation's first female Secretary of State and the highest ranking woman in the United States government.
Albright's ascent to Secretary of State followed her work as a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Sen. Edmund Muskie in 1972, as congressional liaison to the National Security Counsel under National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, as a faculty member in Eastern European Studies at Georgetown University, and as a Democratic Party foreign policy advisor during the vice presidential campaign of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis in 1988.
Since leaving office, Albright has authored three New York Times bestsellers, including her autobiography, "Madam Secretary: A Memoir," published in 2003.
Albright currently serves as a chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. She teaches at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and serves on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, the board of trustees for the Aspen Institute and the board of directors of the Center for a New American Security.
On Feb. 12, Albright visited Lehigh University to deliver the annual Kenner Lecture on Cultural Understanding and Tolerance. The lecture series of Lehigh's College of Arts & Sciences was established in 1997 by Jeffrey L. Kenner, a Lehigh alumnus and former member of the board of trustees who has funded numerous projects at the university. The lecture, in the Zoellner Center's Baker Hall, drew an overflow crowd.
Albright saluted Lehigh as a fine school with "an outstanding president who happens to be a woman" and for the way it "ignited March Madness in 2012."
She predicted that Lehigh "will rock the world again this year," even without C.J. McCollum.
Based on years of experience in international affairs, Albright's prescription for promoting cultural understanding and tolerance is to "do a lot of listening." She noted Wellesley College, her alma mater, was "American, Caucasian and Christian," in contrast to the diverse population of Lehigh.
Albright urged students to seek out people who are different from themselves and hear what they have to say.
"Study the individuals who make you most upset," she said, "and pursue truth wherever that may lead."
Dialogue among people with different points of view may not eliminate differences, she conceded, but it might generate understanding and make it possible to manage and moderate diverse perspectives.
In the question and answer session following her talk, Albright was asked about North Korea's nuclear tests.
"The situation is getting more and more dangerous," Albright replied, "with Kim Jong-un trying to prove he's in charge" with weaponry. "We've tried everything; now we can only watch and hope that the new government in China does something."
In the case of Iran, as well as North Korea, Albright recommended multilateral talks.
"Engagement is better than confrontation," she said, "and you gain nothing by not talking."
Albright attributed our lack of involvement in the Syrian conflict to "intervention fatigue." She advocated applying her "Doability Doctrine," intervening only if we can make a difference. She did say the international community should be doing more in Syria for both the rebels and the refugees.
Asked about the use of drones, she acknowledged while we don't want boots on the ground, employing drones is a very complicated issue. Drones, as well as cyber warfare, are two new tools, and "we need to develop rules regarding their use."