Madeleine Albright, former U.S. secretary of state, was selected to give the 142nd Commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis in 2003. Albright received an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 2003.
The university’s 142nd Commencement began at 8:30 a.m. May 16 in Brookings Quadrangle on campus. During the ceremony, Albright also received an honorary doctor of humanities.
“We are honored that Madeleine Albright has agreed to be our Commencement speaker as we prepare to begin the celebration of our 150th anniversary year,” said Wrighton. “She has made many important contributions to our nation and the world and, especially at this time of political unrest around the world, I know that our graduates and their families will appreciate the opportunity to hear from such a distinguished world leader. She is a perfect example of a person who has used her education and her intellect to make our world a better place, and there is no more important message that we can give our graduates.”
Breaking the glass ceiling
President Bill Clinton nominated Albright as secretary of state on Dec. 5, 1996. After being unanimously confirmed by the Senate, she was sworn in as the 64th secretary of state on Jan. 23, 1997, becoming the first female to hold the post and the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.
As secretary, Albright reinforced America’s alliances and advocated democracy and human rights. She also promoted American trade and business, labor, and environmental standards abroad.
Accomplishments during her tenure include the expansion and modernization of NATO and its successful campaign to reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; the promotion of peace in Northern Ireland and the Balkans; the reduction of nuclear dangers from Russia; and the expansion of democracy in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Maintaining an active role in international affairs
Since leaving government service, Albright has remained active in international affairs. She holds the first Michael and Virginia Mortara Endowed Professorship in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She also is the first distinguished scholar of the William Davidson Institute, an international, educational think tank affiliated with the University of Michigan Business School.
She is chair of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide, and founder of The Albright Group LLC, a global strategy firm.
Prior to her appointment as secretary of state, Albright served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 1993-97 and as a member of Clinton’s Cabinet and National Security Council.
From 1989-1992, she was president of the Center for National Policy, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
She was a member of Georgetown University’s faculty from 1982-1992. As a research professor of international affairs and director of the Women in Foreign Service Program at the university’s School of Foreign Service, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in international affairs, U.S. foreign policy, Russian foreign policy, and Central and Eastern European politics. She also was responsible for developing and implementing programs designed to enhance women’s professional opportunities in international affairs.
From 1981-82, Albright held a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution after an international competition in which she wrote about the role of the press in political changes in Poland during the early 1980s.
She also served as a senior fellow in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, conducting research in developments and trends in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
From 1978-1981, Albright was a staff member on President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council, as well as a staff member at the White House, where she was responsible for foreign policy legislation. From 1976-78, she served as chief legislative assistant to Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine.
Albright earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in political science from Wellesley College in 1959. She studied at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and earned a certificate from the Russian Institute at Columbia University. She earned a master’s degree in international affairs (1968), specializing in Soviet studies, and a doctorate (1976), both from Columbia’s Department of Public Law and Government.
Albright was born in 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. After communists took control of that country in 1948, she and her family immigrated to the United States. She is fluent in French and Czech, with good speaking and reading abilities in Russian and Polish.
Albright has three daughters and six grandchildren. Her autobiography was published in September 2003.