Madeleine Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated with her parents to the United States at age eleven. She first rose to public prominence in 1993 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1997 she was appointed as the nation’s first female Secretary of State by President Bill Clinton. In 2012 she was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama. Now a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University, Albright has remained active as an author, lecturer, and international envoy.
In her Commencement address to UC San Diego graduates Albright stresses the need to build communities, both locally and globally, and the importance of public service – topics on which she is eminently qualified to speak, having spent her adult life as a diplomat and dedicated public servant. As Secretary, Albright was an articulate advocate for democracy, human rights, fair labor practices, environmental protection, and global trade, and in her talk she notes that these core values align precisely with UC San Diego’s institutional philosophy and mission goals.
She urges the assembled students to become actively involved in public life and to assume leadership roles in addressing such serious issues as income inequality, climate change, nuclear proliferation, peace in the Middle East, terrorism, and, of course, immigration reform, noting that in addition to being the first female Secretary of State she is herself an immigrant. Albright emphasizes that the interconnectedness of today’s world heightens the need for thoughtful communal consensus in formulating new strategies and policies, and that UC San Diego graduates are well-disposed to effect those changes.