Madeleine Albright Speaks to Elon Students and Faculty About the Importance of an International Mindset

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

Yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m., former United States Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright spoke at Elon University’s Spring Convocation.

Madeleine Albright speaks at Elon University's Spring Convocation

Madeleine Albright speaks at Elon University's Spring Convocation

Albright was the keynote speaker at the event, and spoke mainly about the importance of having a global mindset outside one’s own small sphere of existence.

There were three main themes in Albright’s speech: the role of education in a changing world, the importance of international learning and the process of connecting what we know to what we do.

Albright discussed some of her college years, which were “some years ago, about half way between the invention of the hand-held BlackBerry and the discovery of fire,” she said, to provide a background against which to set the rest of her speech.

For Albright, this was a time of innocence when the world was simpler and easier to understand. There were distinctions between the “good” and the “bad” guys and people were taught to “have faith in the future,” Albright said.

We often tend to think of education as the remedy for every challenge, but the fact is that education, too, can be a mixed blessing,” Albright said. Education is about searching for the truth, but according to Albright there are many varieties of truth that make this difficult.

Albright said that the world is constantly changing, and education needs to reach beyond barriers that once existed. International learning such as this brings people together and makes them realize that there is a world that exists outside of set boundaries.

Albright spoke of the struggles that take place to understand world, saying that “our ability to prevail in these struggles must begin with a desire to learn.” Often, people in America do not appreciate the lives of people outside the country, but Albright thinks that must change and that Elon is on the right track to changing those ideas.

To successfully work in a global environment, we must challenge ourselves to “in the language of the playground, develop the ability to play well with others,” Albright said. She commended Elon for its desire to do so, through the international students and faculty involved with the university and the study abroad program.

Students, faculty, donors and other friends of the University attending Convocation

Students, faculty, donors and other friends of the University attending Convocation

Instead of exotic names on a lifeless map, [countries] become real places, filled with fascinating people whose anxieties and dreams are not so different after all,” Albright said.

Albright also discussed President Obama, and the need for leaders and educators who have had such experience outside the United States. Although Albright thinks that there is still much to learn to beat catastrophe with the right kind of international education, if Elon continues as it has there is hope.

“And as I look around this audience of excellent students and high achievers, I am convinced that we will win,” Albright said. “Not easily, not immediately, but slowly and surely, we will prevail.”


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