Albright calls '01s to action

by Ithan Peltan | 6/21/01 5:00am

Emphasizing the influence the assembled graduates will exercise on the world stage and calling upon them to employ their talents to "heal, help and teach," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered the keynote address at Dartmouth's Commencement June 10.

In an interview with The Dartmouth, however, Albright shared more of her personal views, ranging from her opinion on current international policy issues to the reasons behind her current endeavors.

Peppering her address with jokes, Albright encouraged the 1,056 undergraduate and 515 graduate students receiving diplomas to be "doers" rather than "drifters."

"I look around at the Class of 2001 and I must tell you that all I see are doers, which is good, for in years to come there will be much for you to do, both here at home and overseas," she said.

Although she has often declined to comment on President George W. Bush's foreign policy since leaving office in January, Albright gave voice to tempered criticisms of the current administration's approach to foreign affairs while speaking with reporters.

Albright said the Bush administration has been faced with a series of difficult international incidents that might have impeded their initial policy intentions, noting in particular the collision of a U.S. surveillance plane and Chinese fighter jet.

Although she admitted that the relationship between the United States and China is very complicated, Albright said calling China a strategic competitor is "a real mistake."

"The question we have is whether we engage with them or just decide that they're the enemy," Albright said. "When you try to create an enemy, sometimes you get your wish."

There are indications that China is currently in a period of leadership transition involving "discussions" between hardliners and moderates, Albright said, suggesting that the administration's current stance may aid the hardliners.

Looking to the future, Albright foresees a world in which those concerned with a nation's classical security issues -- the safety of people and property and the security of territory -- will deal less and less with conventional military conflicts or direct hostility between one nation and another.

"The Class of 2001 will live global lives. You will compete in a global workplace, shop in a global marketplace and travel further and more often than any prior generation," Albright said during her speech, earlier commenting that "I hope people really do look at international careers because national boundaries are very much out of date."

Albright said that the U.S. must be unafraid to exercise leadership on the international stage, but "must also realize that for all our power we can scarcely go it alone."

Speaking to reporters, Albright said there is little the U.S. can do to influence the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- where the fundamentalist Islamic government announced a policy requiring Hindus to wear labels -- except to isolate them, something that cannot be done without global cooperation.

On a more personal level, however, Albright hopes that her role as the nation's first female Secretary of State advanced women's causes.

"I was bound and determined that my gender would not get in the way, but I was also bound and determined that I would make a difference in women's issues," she said.

Since Albright left office, she said the best decision she has made has been to seek new challenges, rather than "rest [ing] on [her] laurels."

"I want to use the knowledge that I gained to work on a new problem," Albright said.

Albright has decided to address the manner in which United States promotes democratic forms of government in other countries, studying what she called "post-euphoria democracies."

According to Albright, although U.S. help in setting up the initial democratic infrastructure is effective, not enough attention is paid a few years down the road when problems often arise.

Besides political work, Albright is also currently in the process of writing her memoirs and has been travelling widely for speaking engagements.

Albright was Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, confirmed by the Senate in 1997 by a unanimous vote.

Albright presided over a historic restructuring of U.S. foreign affairs institutions to respond to the political threats of the new millennium during her tenure as Secretary of State.

The mother of a 1983 Dartmouth graduate and self-described "car pool mother," the College awarded Albright an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the ceremony.