By Max Wynn
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
On January 29th the UCLA community packed into a sold-out Royce Hall to take part in the third Luskin Lecture Series event of the 2013-14, “A Conversation with Madeleine Albright.”
In a list of achievements in public service spanning nearly four decades, Albright most notably served as President Clinton’s Secretary of State from 1997-2001. When she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, she became the first woman to hold that position, and at the time was the highest ranking woman in the history of U.S. government.
Former Massachusetts Governor and visiting professor of public policy Michael Dukakis introduced Secretary Albright, describing how much he had enjoyed working with her during his 1988 presidential campaign. Albert Carnesale, a professor of public policy and engineering and former Chancellor of UCLA, then presented her with the UCLA Medal, an award given to those who have not only earned academic and professional acclaim, but whose works also illustrates the highest ideals of UCLA.
Upon receiving the honor, Albright joined Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and basketball coach John Wooden in the exclusive club of UCLA Medal recipients.
Albright’s keynote address focused on the difficulty of creating effective foreign policy in the face of rapid technological change and growing global interdependence. These two megatrends, as she described them, are difficult to address from a policy standpoint because they create their own contradictions. They both share the potential to foster international cooperation and understanding, she said, and yet in many instances they have hardened sectarian, ethnic and regional divisions.
Conscious of her audience of students, Albright described her remarks as centering on “the challenges facing the next generation of global leaders,” saying “given all that’s happening across the globe, we have an awful lot to talk about.
“The world’s a mess,” she summarized.
Despite these weighty pronouncements, her light-hearted nature, sense of humor and inspiring closing statements made it clear that she retains an optimistic outlook for the future. “Higher stakes mean greater rewards,” she said.
“The leaders of today and tomorrow have a chance to examine the options before us, discard what is broken, adapt what can be made to perform better and create new mechanisms where they are needed so that the global system benefits us all,” she said.
In his opening remarks, UCLA Luskin Dean Franklin D. Gilliam. Jr., stated that “The mission of our school is to change the world. We do that by training the next generation of transformative leaders.” Albright echoed Dean Gilliam’s sentiment, recognizing the potential of Luskin’s students to do just that.
Describing the leaders that the 21st century landscape requires, Albright stated that we need “leaders who bring a broadened understanding of their role…men and women who understand the connections between policy, planning, and social welfare…who recognize the need for an interdisciplinary approach to an interdependent world.
“The Luskin School is the kind of place in which those leaders will be forged,” she said.
Early in her address Albright noted that she was particularly looking forward to the question and answer portion of the evening’s event. She explained that since she is no longer in government she was excited to be able to actually answer the questions students and members of the public asked her, and her answers were nothing if not candid.
After a conversation with Dean Gilliam in which the two discussed a series of topics ranging from the Syrian conflict to the revelation of National Security Agency spying practices to her father’s mentorship of Condoleezza Rice, Albright fielded questions from the audience, the majority of which came from UCLA Luskin students.
The questions touched on specific policy issues as well as covering more general inquiries about the experience of being one of the few women in the corridors of power. Lance Cpl. J. Vincent Barcelona, a Marine Reservist and a third-year undergraduate student, asked Albright what force she would recommend President Obama deploy in Afghanistan as he prepares to withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014.
After thanking him for his service, Albright said she didn’t know of the exact number, but she knew it was important to protect the United States’ investment in the country. She also spoke of her own experience advising on military action, and how seriously she and others in her role take the responsibility of sending young people to war.
Vernessa Shih, a second-year Public Policy student, asked what advice Albright would give to young women interested in public service. Albright responded that she would encourage women to not be afraid to interrupt, because if an idea is important enough to be shared, it’s important enough to break up a conversation. She also passed along what she called her “most-quoted line:”
“There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women,” she said.
Members of the audience took part in the discussion on Twitter. See what they were saying: