Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright stood before an eager and packed audience at the Arlington Theatre last night to discuss her new book, her political views, her career as a policy maker in the Clinton administration, and the U.S.’s role in world affairs.
The event, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures, drew substantial praise from the audience but also attracted protestors, who campaigned against Albright outside the venue before the lecture. The talk was followed by an interview session led by Richard Appelbaum, a UCSB professor of global and international studies, who posed questions from students and faculty to Albright about current events and her hopes for the future.
Though audience commentary during and after the lecture was overwhelmingly positive, three protesters attracted attention before the event from ticket-holders waiting in line with signs condemning Albright’s role in the war in Iraq. One of the protesters, UCSB history graduate student John Munroe, said he was there to make sure more than one side of the spectrum of political views was presented.
“I’m opposed to her policies, but I want to encourage a wider conversation,” Munroe said.
During the 30-minute lecture, Albright discussed topics addressed her new book, The Mighty and The Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, in which the former secretary of state describes the values she learned throughout her childhood and career. Albright grew up, she said, with one simple rule: to keep religion as far away from foreign policy as possible – a statement that was followed by loud applause from the audience.
The comment brought Albright to the main topic of her lecture – her view that religion is a major part of foreign policy in the post-9/11 world.
“Since 9/11, we’ve had to take a fresh look at religion’s role,” she said.
Albright said an emphasis on unity, rather than division, when facing differences in religious views and approaches to global affairs could make the world a better place. She also stressed the value of a bipartisan approach to foreign policy.
“Neither party has a monopoly on wisdom,” she said.
Albright also lectured on U.S. policy in the Middle East, particularly the war in Iraq. After acknowledging that she and the Clinton administration may have had a role in the conflict, Albright stressed her disapproval of the current administration’s approach to the situation. She said no progress in the Middle East or Iraq could come through violence.
“Armageddon is not a foreign policy,” she said.
Besides not bringing peace to the Middle East, Albright said there were several failures in foreign policy during her time in the Clinton administration, including what she called a poor response to the genocide in Rwanda. She also discussed what she believed to be great successes during her tenure, citing the expansion of NATO and her role in helping reverse the ethnic cleansing that was occurring in Kosovo.
After her lecture, Albright answered several questions presented by Appelbaum that had been submitted by students and faculty.
Albright’s response to a question about the next presidential election hinted at the former secretary’s preferences for the next political leader of the U.S. The country is ready for a woman president, she said, and she will be supporting a “very good friend” in 2008.
The final question at the lecture asked what Albright believed the role of today’s students would be in the future of the world. Albright responded by saying she had “great faith” in the current generation.
“The next generation better be good – because we sure screwed it up,” she said.