U.S. must use power prudently, Albright tells grads

The United States could suffer long-term consequences if it is not careful about how it uses its strength, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said Friday at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The extent of American power has created an opportunity for us to make our nation more secure within a world that is healthier, richer and more peaceful than it has ever been,” Albright said. “But if we are not prudent in exercising that power, we will create resentments that will make it much harder in the long run to achieve our goals.”

With Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton at her side, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Ph.D., outlines her views on global policy issues before a crowd of about 12,000 assembled in the campus quadrangle May 16 for the University’s 142nd annual Commencement ceremony. — Photo by Joe Angeles

Albright was at Washington University to deliver the address at its 142nd Commencement and receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

“In our era, America is faced with a historic choice about the role it is to play in the world,” she said. “The strength of the United States is not in doubt. Our economy is the largest; our military the mightiest; our influence the most pervasive — not by a little, but by a lot.

“What is in doubt is how we intend to use our power.”

Albright said the Group of Eight summit of world leaders June 1-3 in Evian, France, is an opportunity for President George W. Bush to clarify the character and purpose of American leadership.

“I hope the president will emphasize not only what our country is against in the world, but also what America is for: taking a hard line against terror, but also outlining plans to strengthen democracy, forge peace in the Middle East, help people around the world to live better lives, and transform the plague of HIV/AIDS from a menace into a memory,” Albright said.

“I hope he will put to rest suspicions about our intentions in Iraq, and (will put to rest) fears that we see ourselves as somehow above the international standards we apply to other countries,” she added.

Albright also said she hoped Bush will reaffirm America’s conviction that alliances such as NATO and the United Nations “are platforms for progress, not relics to be bypassed for fear they will hold us back or tie us down.”

“There are times when the United States, like any country, must act alone to defend its most vital interests,” she said. “But today, in most places, in most cases, America will stand taller and do better if we are part of a larger team.”

In congratulating the more than 2,500 graduates, Albright said she felt particularly privileged to participate in the ceremony today, on the eve of Washington University’s 150th anniversary to be celebrated in the 2003-04 academic year.

“Few academic institutions are as much a part of their community as Washington University is to St. Louis,” she said. “This is reflected in the history you share, the community outreach you do, the facilities you make available and the values you teach. As a result, this university is a central part of the local scene.

“But it is also part of the global scene because of its reputation for high standards, its Nobel Prize-winning faculty, and the ethnic and cultural diversity of its student body.”

About 12,000 people attended the Commencement ceremony in Brookings Quadrangle on the university’s Hilltop Campus.

Albright 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.

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.