Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had planned to talk about her former job and future plans when she agreed to be part of the Distinguished Speaker Series at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Dec. 5.
Instead, she said, she felt compelled to talk about the “tests and perils that we face as a nation” in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
“The future is murky, and we fear what tomorrow’s news will bring,” Albright said. “There is now a whole new meaning to terms such as firefighters, rescue workers and Sept. 11.”
Albright spoke to a capacity crowd on what has changed and what has remained the same after the tragedies. She said that she is heartened by the efforts of countries to put aside their disagreements to cooperate on expanding NATO, and in agreeing to help reconstruct Afghanistan.
The former secretary of state dismissed theories that the tragedies were a punishment for our society’s sins, that the hijackers were lunatics or that U.S. foreign policy was partly to blame.
She also dismissed the suggestion that the Islamic religion was the cause of the attacks: “The perpetrators couldn’t have followed the teachings of Islam.”
Most importantly, she said that she refuses to accept that everything has changed since the day of the attacks.
“It is tempting to say that this fight is the one that really matters, but that would be giving the terrorists much too much credit,” Albright said. “[The terrorists] have not created a new framework for looking at the world. Danger isn’t new; we draw strength from the knowledge of what terror can do. It cannot alter the essential goodness of the American people.”
Albright said that she is proud to have had the chance to represent the U.S. to the world as ambassador to the United Nations, then as secretary of state. She added that being the first female secretary of state, and then to be replaced by an African American, demonstrates the fulfillment of the American dream. Albright is the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.
Albright was asked if she experienced any difficulty as a female ambassador. She candidly answered that she never encountered a problem because she arrived in a plane that said “U.S.A.”
The former secretary of state was also asked who she thought was the most interesting world leader she has met.
“It isn’t always the world leaders who are most interesting, but the ordinary people I have met who are just trying to live their lives,” she replied.
Albright also addressed a question posed to her when she was asked about actor, Michael Douglas calling her a flirt: “Well, not everyone is Michael Douglas,” she replied.
Albright ended her lecture by saying that representing the U.S. was the best job in the world. “I love being part of the American history – having Thomas Jefferson’s job [the third president was secretary of state in the Washington administration].”
Albright received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“The last time I came here was to see Barbara Bush,” said West Covina resident, Jeannine Scott. “I’m a Republican and I was unsure about her [Albright], but I think she was just fabulous. She has a great sense of humor.”
“She is a tremendous speaker,” said Chatsworth resident Barbara Fenwick. “She handled the serious subjects equally as well as the not-so-serious ones.”
Albright currently teaches at Georgetown University and the University of Michigan, and is working on an autobiography that is scheduled to be published in 2002.