AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
Thank you for the introduction. It's a pleasure to be
back here at Wellesley, where the memories are good, the
welcome is warm, the campus is lovely, and all the students
have good posture.
To the class of 1995, I say congratulations. Today is the
payoff for all your long hours of studying, late nights in
the library and exam . Graduation is one of the four great
milestones in life. The others are the day you were born,
the day you die, and the day you finally pay off your
In the years ahead, you will look back upon this
commencement ceremony and realize that this was the very day
and hour you began to forget everything you learned in
college. You will find slipping from your mind the carefully
memorized names of 18th century composers, European monarchs
and the various body parts of dissected frogs. But as your
hopes for hitting a jackpot on Jeopardy fade, you will find
that the more profound aspects of a Wellesley education
According to the Wellesley brochure, students develop
here a sense of history, a capacity for critical reasoning,
an awareness of differing cultures and a passion for
To the extent this description is accurate -- and from
your faces, I can see it is true -- -you will be grateful
for the rest of your lives.
In school, grades and test results measure
accomplishment. You know what is expected and where you
But once you leave school, you will have to rely upon an
inner compass; for only you can set the standards by which
your life will be measured. Each day, you will face
decisions in which your sense of purpose will compete
against temptations, distractions and confusions. You will
often be uncertain, for the path to a life of fulfillment
and accomplishment is nowhere clearly marked.
The choices and challenges you will face as individuals
in the years ahead have their parallel in those now facing
During the Cold War, the yardsticks of global politics
were widely acknowledged; the scoreboard was a map that
colored some countries red, and others red, white and blue.
Every night on Cronkite or Huntley-Brinkley, we would learn
which side had the most troops, the biggest stockpile of
strategic weapons and the most citizens hitting golf balls
on the moon.
But the standards of success in the new world are less
clear. Here, too, an inner compass is required to select the
right goals, establish accountability and fulfill potential.
Here, too, we will find essential the qualities nurtured at
Wellesley -- a sense of history, a capacity for critical
reasoning, an awareness of different cultures and a passion
Today, we face not one enemy, but rather many dangers, as
well as opportunities that have been a long time coming and
that -- if squandered -- may be a long time coming again.
Just as individuals must overcome temptations and
distractions, so our country must overcome internal
divisions and a tide of isolationist thinking that is
stronger today than at any time since the 1920's.
Legislation now pending in Congress would end UN
peacekeeping, pull the plug on support for human rights and
democracy overseas, threaten our long standing commitments
to the Middle East, turn our backs on the poor and
persecuted around the globe, and undermine our efforts to
prevent pollution and counter terrorism and transnational
One leading Republican Senator predicts that, if current
proposals are approved, America will end up, "with as
visible and viable an international role as Ghana."
This outcome is not acceptable.
America is a nation with global interests and
responsibilities. Some may find that a burden, but for most
of us, it is a source of great pride.
The fact is that it matters when America succeeds, as we
just have, in gaining global agreement to extend forever the
Treaty barring new nations from developing nuclear weapons.
That is a gift to the future.
It matters when America takes the lead in supporting the
peacemakers over the bombthrowers in tinderbox regions such
as the Middle East and Northern Ireland.
It matters when America organizes an international
coalition to restore democracy to Haiti, end the horrible
violations of human rights there and give the people of that
country the chance to build a decent life at home, rather
than risk their lives at sea.
It matters when America contributes generously to the
first international war crimes tribunals since Nuremburg;
because the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing must be held
accountable and those who see rape as just another tactic of
war must answer for their crimes.
Finally, it matters that we have an Administration that
understands that international economic and social progress
depends on respect for women and women's rights.
This fall, I will lead the American delegation to the
Fourth Global Conference on the Status of Women. We will
stress there this truth: when women have the power and the
knowledge to make their own choices, birth rates stabilize,
environmental awareness increases, the spread of
sexually-transmitted disease slows, economic opportunity
expands and socially constructive values are more likely to
be passes on to the young.
Unfortunately, today, in countries around the world,
appalling abuses are being committed against women. These
include coerced abortions and sterilizations, children sold
into prostitution, ritual mutilations, dowry murders and
official indifference to violence.
Some say that all this is cultural and that there's
nothing we can do about it. I say it's criminal and it's the
responsibility of each an every one of us to stop it.
Let us be clear: we strive to be aware of ethnic, racial
and religious differences not to find excuses for actions
that are wrong, but to ensure the tolerance and
understanding upon which freedom and civility depend.
Last year, in Croatia, I visited a farm in what was once
a pretty town called Vukovar. There, beneath a pile of
rusted refrigerators and scraps of farm equipment, is a
shallow grave containing the bodies of two to three hundred
human beings. These dead were not the victims of "heat of
battle" violence; they were not -- in the terminology of the
soldier --- collateral damage. They were men and women like
you and me; boys and girls like those we know; intentionally
targeted and massacred not because of what they had done,
but for who they were.
During his diplomatic career, my father served as
Ambassador from what is now the former Czechoslovakia to
what is now the former Yugoslavia. He understood the depth
of nationalist passions. And he described them "as a
permanent, vital and influential force for good and evil."
It was his experience, as it is ours, that national pride
can be the custodian of rich cultural legacies; it can unite
people in defense of a common good; it can provide a sense
of identity and belonging that stretches across territory
But as the current outrages in Bosnia illustrate, when
pride in "us" curdles into hatred of "them", the result is a
narrowing of vision an a compulsion to violence.
We are all proud of the groups to which we belong. But
loyalty to group cannot excuse the betrayal of universal
In respecting the distinctions of physiology, culture and
history that separate us, let us never forget the common
humanity that binds us. We are different peoples, but one
species -- a species distinguished not only by our ability
to manipulate our thumbs, but by our ability to think
conceptually, create great civilizations, compose
masterpieces of art and ponder the mysteries of life.
Fifty years ago this spring, the American Army liberated
Buchenwald. They found 1800 naked bodies, stacked like
cordwood alongside an incinerator; they watched thousands of
those freed die because starvation and disease and abuse had
one on too long; crying themselves, they embraced
hollow-eyed children who had forgotten how to cry.
The great lesson of this century is that what happens to
people anywhere should matter to people everywhere.
After World War II, the generation that defeated Hitler
designed a framework of principle and power that would
safeguard freedom, prevent global conflict, extend the rule
of law and expand respect for human rights around the world.
Today, the responsibilities of leadership are in our
hands. As Hillary Rodham Clinton said earlier this year:
"There is no comparison to the circumstances in which our
parents and grandparents faced the second world war ... but
neither should there be doubt that we have the same
greatness within us."
That is not only a statement of fact. It is a
presentation of choice.
A decade or two from now, we will be known as the
generation that solidified the global triumph of democratic
principles, or as the neo-isolationists who allowed
totalitarianism and fascism to rise again. We will be known
as the generation that laid the groundwork for rising
prosperity around the world, or as the neo-protectionists
whose lack of vision produced financial chaos. We will be
known as the generation that took strong measures to deter
aggression, or as the world-class ditherers who stood by
while the seeds of renewed global conflict were sown.
Each of us must choose whether to live our lives
narrowly, selfishly and complacently, or to act with courage
And our nation must choose whether to turn inward and
betray the lessons of history, or to seize the opportunity
now before us to shape history.
We are not governed by fate or by the alignment of the
stars. We are all accountable, for it is the sum of our
choices that will determine the kind of America and the kind
of world in which we live and our children will live.
It has been said that all work that is worth anything is
done in faith. This morning, in these beautiful
surroundings, at this celebration of warm memory and high
expectation, I summon you in the name of this historic
college and of all who have passed through its halls, to
embrace the faith that each life enriched by your giving,
each friend touched by your affection, each soul inspired by
our passion and each barrier to justice brought down by your
determination, ennoble your own life, inspire others and
explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this
So congratulations, good luck, and remember always to sit
Thank you very much.