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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright

Humphrey Institute gives award to Madeleine Albright

Published on June 9, 2004

On June 8, the University gave former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright one of four 2004 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Awards for contributions to the common good through public leadership and service. She also delivered the ceremony's keynote address.

Answering a question from a Minnesota Daily reporter, Albright said, "I'm a great believer in public service, so I always encourage students to think about it as a career. It's a way of trying to repay what is given to you. It makes you feel awfully good."

Albright was the first female secretary of state and remains the highest-ranking woman to have served in the U.S. government. During her tenure under President Clinton, she expanded and modernized NATO and led NATO's successful campaign to reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

"It's one thing to be feared by your enemies; it's another thing to be feared by your friends," says Albright. "I've never seen the international situation as troubling as it is now."

In an afternoon session with the press before the evening's ceremonies, Albright answered questions about, among other things, the current situation in Iraq and Bush administration policies.

"I travel abroad a lot and I find it completely dismaying that people question our motivations and fear us," says Albright. "It's one thing to be feared by your enemies; it's another thing to be feared by your friends. U.S. relations with other countries have been severely damaged [by the Iraqi conflict] and I think our credibility is very much in doubt. I've never seen the international situation as troubling as it is now. I think President Bush did very well at Normandy with President Chirac, but there's a lot of work to be done as a result of the high-handed approach that this administration has taken."

Albright was also responsible for bringing public diplomacy into the state department. She created the position of undersecretary of state of public diplomacy to get better coordination between policy and the voice America has abroad--a position, she believes, that has not been well utilized by the current administration. "[Public diplomacy is basically used] to get America's message out," she says, "but also it's about listening to what you're hearing in other countries so you can understand how the message is being received. It's not good enough--for instance, when we were concerned about how to deal with Islam--to make films about how happy Muslims are in the U.S."

Asked about President Reagan's legacy, Albright said that he actually admitted when things went wrong and he took responsibility for them--a good lesson for our country. "I think part of the issue at this point in America is that this administration is not willing to say that mistakes have been made in Iraq," Albright says. "It's very important to admit when you're wrong. It's unexpected and it comes as surprise to people, but it's worth doing. And it isn't the same as apologizing. I think it undercuts your credibility when you don't admit you made mistakes."

When questioned about whether she has consulted or was going to consult with the Bush administration about how to deal with other countries around the Iraq situation, Albright answered, "Well, I haven't been asked, and they've been quite remarkable in their lack of interest in what the previous administration has done. When I was in office, I consulted regularly with my predecessor and there were times when President Clinton asked various Republican leaders about their opinions. That has not happened with this administration, and so I don't expect be asked."

Tuesday's dinner was the second annual ceremony to honor reciepients of the leadership award. The Humphrey Institute created the award to recognize public leaders who exemplify Hubert Humphrey's values of engaged citizenship and dedication to helping others. The three other 2004 awards went to Marge Anderson, Nathan Garvis, and Judge Gerald W. Heaney.