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Madeleine Albright - Honorary Degree

Presented by L. Sue Hulett, Professor of Political Science

June 07, 2008

Mr. President, I have the honor to present to you and to the Knox College community, including graduating liberals and the handful of conservatives out there, Secretary Madeleine K. Albright for the degree of Doctor of Laws.

While Secretary Albright did not attend Knox, she chose a great major (political science at Wellesley, where she received her Bachelor?s degree, and Columbia University where she earned her PhD). She had the privilege of serving her adopted country when she entered the highest ranks of government years ago, at a time when women encountered many obstacles to their entry into powerful positions.

We might take it for granted, as Senator Clinton contests for the presidency, that women have a long history of influence in the United States. But I remind you that women in high office are a recent phenomenon. It was in 1984 that President Reagan nominated the first woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1997, after serving in President Clinton?s cabinet and as his UN Ambassador, Ms. Albright served as the first woman Secretary of State.

In 2004 President Bush chose Condoleeza Rice as the 1st African-American woman as his Secretary of State. Secretary Albright, then, is part of a lineage of pioneering women who have achieved high political positions. After her government service, Madeleine Albright finally reached the pinnacle of power ? in her current position as a distinguished university professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. It was here that she finally found time to establish her own think tank, The Albright Group, and write two bestselling books, Madam Secretary and The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs.

Her most recent book, Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America?s Reputation and Leadership, was published just this year. While Secretary Albright claims to be a realist (yes, I am not making this up, being a realist myself) and a neo-liberal idealist, I can only determine that this dichotomy means that she, like most professors, is of two minds about diplomacy.

On the one hand, realists note the value of focusing on long-term interests such as national security. On the other hand, idealists note our interest in defending long-term values such as democracy, justice, morality, and liberty. Moreover, there is the foreign policy challenge of knowing which to defend first and when to accept the necessary practice of compromise in order to pursue both interests and values. This is the task of leadership, a task that Secretary Albright embraced and endured in her many dedicated years of service to her country and to its moral and political values.

Mr. President, in honor of her dedicated service to her country and the advancement of its values, it is my pleasure to present Secretary Madeleine K. Albright for the degree of Doctor of Laws.

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Printed on Sunday, January 20, 2019