Madeleine Albright at Knox College

by Norm Winick

Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State during President Bill Clinton’s second term, was in Galesburg Saturday to deliver the commencement address at Knox College. She also could have been in Washington, where Hillary Clinton was ending her campaign for the White Hose and throwing her support behind Barack Obama. Albright was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Hillary and made it clear in her press conference that she, too, is now wholeheartedly behind Obama.

Ironically, it was Obama’s victory speech in Des Moines after he triumphed in the Iowa caucuses that put Albright a little further behind the scenes of the Clinton campaign. When he appeared on the platform, he was surrounded by smiling and cheering youthful supporters. Hillary was surrounded by many former Bill Clinton advisors and cabinet members, many of them obviously aging, including Madeleine Albright. The contrast was astounding. At Hillary’s future events, Albright and the other former aides were nowhere to be seen.

Albright, who was the first female to serve as Secretary of State, was introduced by Knox College Political Science Professor L. Sue Hulett who made it obvious that Albright and she do not see eye-to-eye on many issues by invoking the names of her favorite females in government, Sandra Day O’Connor and Condoleezza Rice.

Albright’s speech contained some history, a few of the traditional admonitions to the graduates and many veiled and a few no-so-veiled digs at the current administration.

At the press conference, following her speech, she was more direct in the criticism of her successors. “It is very important that the State Department be made relevant again.”

While she had been a Hillary supporter and that campaign had criticized Obama for his willingness to talk to our enemies, she seemed to side with the Illinois Senator. “The simplistic belief that you don’t need to speak with your adversaries is arrogant.” She said that channels of communications should remain open and that discussions are always better than conflict — qualifying the statement by adding that maybe not at the Presidential level at the outset.

“I believe in a moral foreign policy but I don’t believe in a moralistic one.” She also is ready to look at normalizing relations with Cuba once again. She said that they discussed it many times in the Clinton White House but what was originally an executive order imposing the embargo is now a law and the votes just weren’t there in Congress to repeal it. “I personally believe that we need to do something different. The time has come to change this.”

“We need to look at better ways of encouraging democracy to flourish around the world without trying to impose democracy on other peoples. Imposing democracy is an oxymoron.”