Madeleine Albright is One Heck of a Lady
by Elsinora, Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 12:56:09 PM EDT
On Saturday, I graduated from Knox College--a small but respected school which really puts the "liberal" in liberal arts. Thanks to our historical stature (our signature building, Old Main, was the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debate at which Lincoln first denounced slavery as a moral evil) and a certain alumnus and prominent Democrat named John Podesta, we've had a great run of Commencement speakers lately (Barack Obama in 2005, Stephen Colbert in 2006, and Bill Clinton last year), culminating in this year's speaker: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
For those of you who have not had the privilege of hearing Secretary Albright speak, I can tell you this: Madeleine Albright is not ashamed of anything. She wears her age, her education, her experiences, and above all, her political beliefs as a badge of honor. She is also very, very funny...and she gives one hell of a speech.
The full transcript and video of her Commencement speech, in my opinion, should be required viewing for all Democrats (especially those in the national legislature), as an excellent and much needed reminder of what we believe in. (I also greatly appreciated her comments on the primary race--she was a Clinton supporter, but is clearly ready to throw her full weight behind Obama now.) The full text/video is available here, but this quote was the highlight for me:
You may well wonder whether there are subjects being debated now about which future generations will ask: Why were they ever in doubt? Just as we ask how slavery could ever be defended - our descendants may have questions of their own.
For example, why, in the midst of miraculous scientific gains, did weallow such a divide to develop between rich and poor in our owncountryand overseas? Why, with the memory of Bosnia and Rwanda fresh in our minds, didn't we do more, earlier, to stop genocide in Darfur? Why, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, have we still notacted to safeguard our global environment? And why, in the name of common sense, didn't we understand that the best way to defeat terrorists and protect our security is toremain true to our own principles?
If history teaches anything, it is not that wisdom is beyond our reach; it is that we fail to act on the knowledge we have. Like Stephen Douglas, we look for temporary solutions and search for the easy way out.
And we are very good at finding words to justify our failures:
* slavery is a special institution;
* women are the weaker sex;
* global warming is not really happening;
* torture isn't torture if it's being done to somebody else.
All too often, we see injustice and think it safer to do nothing than fight for truth; simpler to allow others to point the way than to blaze our own path.
If you ever took biology, you might have learned about a species of tadpole that always moves together as a group. This instinct is driven by the creature's microscopic brain. When scientists lobotomized one, it began darting about on its own. And naturally, all the others followed.
This combination of herd instinct and lobotomized leadership is no great problem when confined to amphibians. But with humans, it's a different story.
Damn right, Madame Secretary. If only our Democratic legislators had your guts!