Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Next president must reach out, restore name of democracy, Albright tells students

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told University of Denver students that next presidential administration will have its work cut out for it on the world stage.

Calling the war in Iraq “the greatest disaster in international relations in American history,” Albright warned that the next president, whoever it may be, will face the tough task of restoring America’s name, limiting the spread of nuclear weapons and controlling terrorism.

“This is going to be a very difficult presidency,” she said.

Albright was on the DU campus May 28 to see the Graduate School of International Studies renamed in honor of her father, the respected diplomat and scholar Josef Korbel, who founded the school and served as its first dean.

After joining her family to see the school renamed the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Albright met with nearly 250 students at an event, “Madeleine Albright Meets the Next Generation of Foreign Policy Leaders.”

She discussed her recent book, Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership, taking questions from a panel made up of international studies graduate students Devin Finn, Triveni Gandhi, Figar Joseph, Arturo Lopez-Levy, Lillian McTernan and Joel Pruce.

Pressed on how the country can stabilize a global situation which she called “a mess,” Albright pulled no punches. She was openly critical of the Bush administration’s policies and — referring to a comment the president made to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on May 15 — said opening a dialogue with a hostile government is not akin to appeasement policies offered the Nazis prior to World War II.

“I am appalled by what President Bush did in the Knesset, which is to say talking to your enemy is appeasement,” she told the students.

Instead, she said she favors diplomatic talks. A key problem the U.S. has with Iran is that administrators in this country aren’t sure of what’s going on inside that country. And Iran’s desire to obtain nuclear weapons is understandable and a real obstacle, considering U.S.’s history of invading only countries without nuclear weapons, she said.

Globally, the current policy of imposing democracy on nations rather than offering them a path to democracy is failing, she said, and U.S. actions are largely responsible for that crisis.

“We have lost our moral authority, thanks to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo,” two enduring images of the Iraq war, Albright said. “While there are many people who want American leadership, American leadership has been wanting.”

Read about the renaming of the international studies school.

[Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, Arturo Lopez-Levy was not included in the list of DU student panelists. We regret the error.]

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