Madeleine Albright, first female U.S. Secretary of State, to speak at 169th commencement ceremony

Silvia Buonocore, News Editor

University President John Bravman announced on Feb. 1 that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will serve as the speaker for the University’s 2019 Commencement Ceremony. In his email, he thanked and congratulated “the officers of the Class of 2019 for identifying an outstanding keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony.”


“The feedback from family, friends, and the campus community has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are proud to say that we played a part in bringing Madeleine Albright to Bucknell for such an important event in our lives,” Class of 2019 Vice President Emily Shapiro said.


The 2019 Class Congress worked together to choose Albright as the speaker. “After watching speeches and doing research, we came up with a list of potential speakers and she was at the top of our list,” Class of 2019 President Laura Bart said. “The class officers spent a lot of time thinking about individuals who’ve made a lasting impact on society and could share inspiring and meaningful messages based on their own life experiences. I can’t think of anyone who fits that criteria better than Madeleine Albright.”


Past commencement speakers at the University include financial analyst Jim Cramer in 2018 and journalist Fareed Zakaria in 2017.


Class of 2019 Treasurer and Secretary Annie Girton shared that she, Bart, and Shapiro were excited to deviate from the male pattern this year. “As a senior executive office made up of all females, Laura, Emily, and I decided that our goal was to find a strong and impressive woman to speak to our class,” Girton said.


Albright served as the first female U.S. Secretary of State from 1997 until 2001, during former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s presidency. While in office, she improved relations with Vietnam and China, expanded NATO, promoted peace with the Middle East, and advocated for democracy and human rights across the world.


“She has had a long career in public service and has been at the center of the United States foreign policy establishment. I hope that she will be able to share lessons learned from that experience, both positive and negative,” Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations David Mitchell said.


“The Bucknell community will be hearing from her at a moment of time when the world is changing in ways most of us have not seen before and the U.S. position in the world is changing. Hopefully, she will be able to share some insights that will make us consider where we are and where we need to go,” Mitchell said.


Due to Albright’s notable achievements, she has received many honors and awards, including the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is also one of the highest ranking females to have served in the U.S. Government to date.


“I really just feel overjoyed and incredibly prideful to have such an accomplished woman as our speaker. This will be something that the members of our class will remember for the rest of their lives and I am so honored to be able to have been a part of the process,” Bart said.


“Madeleine Albright is an eminent speaker who we are quite lucky to have. I’m very proud of everyone involved with picking her and securing her to speak, and I’m excited to hear what she has to say,” Class of 2019 Senator Elliot Miller said.


Born in 1937 in Prague to parents Anna and Josef, Albright was raised Catholic, despite having Jewish heritage. In fact, her parents converted from Judaism in 1941 in fear of persecution during World War II. The family immigrated to the United States in 1948 through Ellis Island. While they settled in Long Island, Albright later lived in Denver, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. She attended Wellesley College as an undergraduate and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University.


Albright began her career as the chief legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Ed Muskie. Later, in 1978, Albright worked for former President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council. She then became a staff member at Georgetown University, specializing in Eastern European studies and directing the University’s program on women in global politics. Prior to being appointed Secretary of State, Albright was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations as well as a member of the President’s Cabinet in 1993.


“I was beyond thrilled when I found out that Madeleine Albright would be speaking at the 2019 Commencement. She is incredibly inspiring as a powerful female role model and I am excited to hear the advice she shares with our class when we graduate in May,” Maddie Nicol ’19 said.


Not only are students excited to welcome Albright, but University faculty members have also been sharing their positive reactions. “At a time when U.S. foreign policy seems to have lost its directions, it is absolutely important for the American public to hear rational voices from people such as Secretary Albright, one of the most distinguished and respected American diplomats,” Professor of Political Science and International Relations Zhiqun Zhu said.


In addition, Zhu noted that “Secretary Albright traveled to Pyongyang in 2000 in an attempt to solve North Korea’s nuclear issue. At the time, she was the highest-ranking U.S. official to have ever traveled to North Korea after the Korean War.”


“Over the course of [Albright’s] service to the United States, she was at the center of many of the most significant foreign policy decisions of the last three decades. I am excited to hear what she has to share with the graduating class of 2019 and their families,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Karl Voss said.


Currently, Albright is a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She also founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management LLC, which advise firms regarding various financial and strategic matters. Additionally, she is a chair of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation and a member of both the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board and the Board of the Aspen Institute.


“I think she’ll make a great speaker,” Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Ellis said. “She’s a political figure, so obviously not everyone is going to agree with everything she’s done. But she’s also a good diplomat with a history of working with people all over the spectrum, so I can’t imagine she’ll put a damper on commencement by getting too political with her speech.”


Aside from her work as a politician and diplomat, Albright has written six books. Her latest book, “Fascism: A Warning” was published in 2018 and was recently ranked number 1 on the “New York Times” Bestseller List.


“Madeleine Albright is such an accomplished woman, and what I really respect about her is that in light of her success and notoriety, she has remained a down to earth and compassionate woman, and has most importantly used her power to continuously fight for the well-being of all people. I hope that this is a message that our entire graduating class will be inspired by this spring,” Girton said.


Bucknell University’s 169th Commencement will be held on the Malesardi Quadrangle on May 19, 2019.

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