Albright, who served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, and is now chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and a professor of International Relations at Georgetown, reflected on her life and professional journey during an hour-and-a-half fireside chat.
Albright discussed her experiences growing up as a refugee from Czechoslovakia, the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated society and profession, and even fielded a question about “aging with grace” (in which she revealed her ability to leg press 450 pounds).
Tsinghua students from various backgrounds and disciplines asked her insightful and, in the words of the Secretary, hard, questions about foreign policy and the current world order. She talked about Vladimir Putin’s ability to “play a weak hand well” in preserving some of Russia’s pre-Soviet collapse importance. She also discussed diplomatic challenges in North Korea, Myanmar, and the complexities of balancing realism and idealism as the United States’ chief diplomat.
Secretary Albright is currently on an extended trip through China. She stressed that the Sino-American relationship is the world’s most critical. She reflected on her diplomatic dealings with China over the last four decades and the unbelievable change in the country. When asked about China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, she noted that, while it has not been perfect, it is absolutely better than the alternative—she also noted that it is time for some “refurbishing” of the WTO.
Perhaps the topic Albright stressed most was women’s issues and women’s professional development. Madeleine Albright—the US’s 64thand first ever female Secretary of State—has been a pioneer for women in government. She spoke passionately about her own experiences dealing with sexism and dismissive male colleagues and stressed the importance of female representation in international diplomacy.
Refugee/Professor/Secretary Madeleine Albright is an inspiring, brilliant, and funny speaker. We are incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to speak with and learn from her.