Thank you Mr. President; fellow participants in this program; officers, faculty, and students of Hobart and William Smith; guests and friends. I am thrilled to be here and deeply appreciative of the Elizabeth Blackwell Award.
It is a wonderful honor and, since it is given only to women, I can safely assume that I am the first former Secretary of State to receive it. Henry Kissinger, eat your heart out.
I first met your distinguished leader, Mark Gearan, during the Dukakis Presidential campaign back in the prehistoric era of 1988. Mark was approximately fifteen years old at the time. I was nineteen. Even though our candidate lost, Mark and I agree that neither one of us was to blame.
Mark especially has always been a man of superb judgment. That explains his decision to come here after serving as Director of the Peace Corps. It explains his decision to marry a young woman named Mary Herlihy. And it explains their brilliant decision to name their first child "Madeleine." And to spell it right.
But Mark is not the only reason I am delighted to be here. As a former professor and current mother of three college graduates, I love academic surroundings. It is especially exciting at the start of a new year.
For the class of 2005, this is the launching of a wonderful adventure. For those returning, it is a chance to renew acquaintances and settle back into the academic routine of 90 percent work and 10 percent play, or perhaps it's the other way around.
For all of you, I can only express my congratulations at the opportunity you have. Hobart and William Smith are two of the finest colleges in the country, and when it comes to international education, you truly lead the way.
This is reflected in the courses you offer, the students you attract, the faculty you employ, the exchanges you conduct, and the values of tolerance and mutual respect with which you are identified.
This outward orientation is vital because the graduating classes of the 21st century 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 generations.
To succeed, you will require the kind of knowledge that extends far beyond the border of any single country; far beyond the capacity of any academic system to grade.
You will need to develop an inner compass to keep you steady amidst the turbulence; a kind of personal North Star grounded in knowledge of yourself. I know from my own experience that such knowledge can be hard to obtain.
When I arrived in college, not long after Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from here, I had one basic goal--to be accepted. As an immigrant with an accent, I didn't want to stand out; I wanted to fit in.
Fortunately, in the 1950s, conformity was encouraged. We were all expected to become young ladies. Today, the clicking you hear in classrooms is caused by students with laptops taking notes. When I was at Wellesley, it was caused by the knitting needles we used to make our boyfriends' socks.
When we enrolled, we each had to pose for what they called a posture picture to see whether we had, and I quote, "an understanding of good body alignment and the ability to stand well."
The thing is, we were not allowed to wear any clothing above the waist. They actually graded the pictures, and if we flunked, they made us do exercises. We always wondered what happened to the pictures, until a few years ago. They were discovered in a vault--at Yale.
While attending Wellesley, I learned much about Renaissance composers, European philosophers, and dissected frogs; but I also learned much about myself--that I wanted to use the fine education I had received for something more meaningful than table conversation; that I wanted to test--not simply accept--the limits and boundaries of the life I was preparing to lead; and that I wanted to give something back to this country that had given so much to me.
I suspect the same is true for students at Hobart and William Smith. Whether you are taking classes here in Geneva, or participating in a program overseas, you will learn much about the external world, and also about your own inner strengths.
Here, the example of Elizabeth Blackwell should shine in each of our hearts. For she was a fighter who confronted the steepest barriers and wore down those she couldn't knock down. She was a doer with a purpose, and that purpose was to excel while serving and healing others.
Her career is a reminder that each of us must choose whether to live our lives selfishly and complacently, or to act with boldness and faith.
Nations, also, must choose. Just as we sometimes come across individuals who think only of themselves, so we sometimes encounter people who think America can go it alone. They brag about our power and wealth and say we don't need to listen to or cooperate with others. They say America should be self-contained and self-sufficient.
I yield to no one in the pride I feel for our country. And certainly, there are times we have to act unilaterally. But the idea that America can lead while ignoring the interests and concerns of our allies and friends is just plain wrong.
When I left office, I said I would not criticize the new Administration for at least six months. That was seven months ago. So now I am free at least to ask a question.
Why is this Administration allergic to treaties?
So far, it has turned its back on proposals to ban nuclear tests, slow climate change, detect biological weapons, halt the illegal sale of small arms, and prosecute war criminals. It has weakened a pact on money laundering, and developed a security strategy based on withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
Reasonable people can disagree about the merits of each of these agreements; I have reservations about several.
But it's one thing to say, "maybe" and try to work out differences. It's another to say, "no, nope, no way, not on your life, and forget about it." If you do that often enough, you might acquire a reputation for being negative.
The Administration says it will refuse to sign treaties that are not in America's "best interests". Fine, that's an obvious standard.
But I am concerned about how they define our interests. Because when I was in office, I spent a lot of time arguing with foreign leaders about how they defined their interests. And I can tell you, if we adopt a narrow standard, so will others.
The Russians may decide it is in their interests to sell nuclear technology to Iran; after all, they need the money. The same goes for China and its transfers of technology to Pakistan. North Korea is desperately poor and eager to sell missiles to anyone who'll buy them.
Slobodan Milosevic thought it was in Serbia's best interest to terrorize Kosovo. And the Junta in Burma thinks it's in their interest to limit the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Is this the kind of future we want? One hundred ninety nations going in 190 directions based on narrow considerations of money and power? Is this the vision and example America should be putting before the world?
I think we're better than that.
I know we're better than that.
Today, America is the world's leading nation. Some say that's because of our economic and military strength, and there's truth in that. But I believe it is primarily due to the ideals and values that America at its best represents to the world.
I believe it matters when America is engaged and working with others to solve global problems, not sitting on our duffs with our boots off, sucking lemonade through a straw.
It matters that we continue working with Russia and our allies to reduce the nuclear danger, instead of putting all our security eggs into the leaky basket of missile defense.
It matters that NATO build on the progress made toward democracy in the Balkans; that we stand up to extremists; support peace in Macedonia; and ensure that the remaining architects of ethnic cleansing join Milosevic in jail.
It matters that we play an active role in ending the violence and salvaging the peace process in the Middle East. Long distance phone calls aren't sufficient. We have to take risks; we have to get involved.
It matters that we listen to scientists who say global warming is real and a threat to our future; and who argue that conservation is the key to a sound energy policy, not a four-letter word.
It matters that we take the lead in the war against AIDS--the greatest security and public health threat of our time--and a disease that must be conquered.
And it matters that we listen to those who argue that globalization should not lead to marginalization of the world's poor.
I suspect you are like me. When we buy a blouse or a shirt, we want to know that it was not produced by workers who were underage, underpaid, under coercion, or denied their basic right to organize.
We must not and will not accept a global economy that rewards the lowest bidder without regard to standards. We want a future where growth is shared and sustainable, and where corporate profits come from inspiration and perspiration, not exploitation.
I have traveled almost everywhere, and I have found there are essentially three categories of countries in the world today.
In the first, people work all day and still do not have enough to eat. In the second, families are able to scrape together just enough food to meet their basic needs. In the third category of countries, diet books are bestsellers.
Confronted with this hard truth, some people simply shrug their shoulders and say it's too bad, but there isn't anything anyone can do about it.
I say such unfairness is intolerable, and we each have a responsibility to change it.
There was a time when we could say that we did not know enough, or did not have the resources, or were too imperiled by other urgent threats.
But today, there can be no doubt that if only we would so choose, we could produce enough food, build enough shelter, deliver enough medicine, and share enough knowledge to allow people everywhere to live better and more productive lives.
There is danger in defining our interests too narrowly. After all, notwithstanding the current bestseller, we don't live in the world of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson anymore.
Today, America has an interest in all of Europe--and Asia, Latin America, and Africa. That's why we sometimes get involved in places that are far away from our shores.
When I was Secretary of State, we were criticized for that. People would ask, "why are you fighting for democracy and peace in places like East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Haiti?
Aren't they too small and too poor to affect the United States? After all, they don't have armies that can hurt us; or air forces that can bomb us; or money to buy our computers and airplanes.
And I would say you are asking the wrong questions. The world today is interconnected. What matters anywhere will matter everywhere. And my only regret is that we did not do more, earlier to stop the war in Bosnia and halt genocide in Rwanda.
I do not intend today to put the weight of the world upon your shoulders. That's the job of your parents and professors.
But I do hope that each of you will embrace the opportunity you have to explore distant corners of the world.
I hope you will support an American foreign policy that provides true leadership in defense of freedom and on behalf of human rights.
I hope you will use the knowledge gained in college to be more than a consumer of liberty, but also an enricher of it, employing your talents to heal, help, and teach.
I urge you also to follow Elizabeth Blackwell's example, of persistence in support of causes that are just, and to remember the words of Margaret Mead, a prior recipient of the Blackwell award, who advised us never to "doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed," she said, "it's the only thing that ever has."
It is said that all work that is worth doing is done in faith.
This afternoon, in this beautiful setting, at this moment of renewal and high expectation, I hope we will each embrace the faith that every challenge surmounted by our energy; every problem solved by our wisdom; every soul awakened by our passion; and every barrier to justice brought down by our determination will ennoble our own lives, inspire others, and explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.
To Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I say thank you for inviting me and thank you again for this great honor, and best wishes to you all.
Convocation Remarks of Madeleine K. Albright In Receipt of the Elizabeth Blackwell Award
Sept. 4, 2001