Welcome, Madame Secretary

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Last Thursday morning, the 12 students in Associate Professor Andy Katz’s Foreign Policy Formulation class were sitting on the edge of their seats in the Burton D. Morgan Center, watching excitedly for the arrival of a special guest. Then she walked in—Dr. Madeleine Albright—wearing a friendly smile and handsome brooch on her plum-colored suit.

An hour later, the former U.S. secretary of state had fielded questions about whether Islam is compatible with democracy and about the challenges of being a woman in public life – (even remarking that “there should be a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”). She also commented on the “youthquake” in the Middle East and northern Africa, calling it “a real game-changer.”

Albright was on campus as speaker for the Richard G. Lugar Symposium on Public Policy, which was established by the Class of 1954, on the occasion of their 50th reunion, to honor their Denison classmate, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar ’54.

As is most often the case with visiting opinion leaders, artists and dignitaries at Denison, Albright’s schedule involved way more than a lecture. She spent the whole afternoon meeting face-to-face with more students, including Model UN participants, reporters from The Denisonian and WDUB, women’s studies students, and participants in the college’s Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service.

“It was an incredible experience to sit down with someone of that magnitude,” said Andy Gordon ’12, a political science major from Strongsville, Ohio. “It was a surreal day for me.”

That evening, when the time for her lecture rolled around, Swasey Chapel was full to the brim. Albright spoke about her years as secretary of state, and recalled especially that she was glad President Clinton had been a good listener, welcoming healthy discussion among his advisers when he was making decisions.

While answering students’ questions after her talk, Albright discussed her role in bringing peace to Kosovo and how she wished she had been able to solve the problems in Rwanda.

Katz said afterward, “I was thrilled by the quality of her interactions with our students and her observations about foreign policy, public service, and the value of a liberal arts education.”

So what about the brooch? Albright is famous for them, of course, and students were quick to ask her about the quirky golden bird that was pinned to her jacket.

Turns out, the brooch was a nod to Denison’s unofficial mascot. “It’s as close as I could get to a buzzard,” she laughed.

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