Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Talks to UF Law Students About the State of the Presidency

Published: March 31st, 2008

Category: Feature, News

Madeleine AlbrightFormer U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke on March 26 to a packed classroom of UF Law students, faculty and staff about the difficulties the next president will face.

Albright discussed the state of the presidency and her new book, Memo To The President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership. “It was written for the president elect to read on election night, but it’s out now, so it’s basically for Americans primarily, some foreigners, in order to see what I think are the major national security issues for the next president to confront,” she said.

The idea of the book stemmed from thinking about the power of the American presidency while watching former presidents and President George W. Bush interact at former President Gerald Ford’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral. Albright spent much time researching how former presidents had seen the office.

The former U.S. Secretary of State spoke mostly of the “horrors of the world” that the next president will have to combat. “I think this is going to be one of the hardest presidencies that we have seen in a very, very long time,” Albright said.

The book centers around five big issues that the next president will have to confront, including fighting terrorism without creating more terrorists, mitigating the threat of nuclear powers, reducing the effects of globalization, restoring the good name of democracy, dealing with environmental issues, and managing two “hot wars” with unintended consequences.

Albright spoke of the “hot wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq and the task of the president to deal with each war’s unintended consequences. Afghanistan’s unintended consequence is Pakistan, she said. “Pakistan is a country that has every element of what gives you an international migraine. They have nuclear weapons, terrorism, extremism, poverty and corruption.”

But “Iraq is going to go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy”” in terms of unintended consequences. Albright compared the war in Iraq to billiards. “With a bunch of balls in the middle of the table, you hit the ball, hope it will get into the pocket on the other side, but on the way it hits a lot of other balls – it’s very horizontal and dynamic,” she said.

“The next President has a huge agenda, and is going to have to operate in some other way realizing that we have to work with other countries,” Albright said. “The next presidency is going to be a very, very difficult one.”

Albright was the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. In 1997, she was named the first woman Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. Albright visited the Levin College of Law upon the invitation of UF Law Professor and Dean Emeritus Jon Mills (JD 72), director of the Center for Governmental Responsibility.

Albright is a principal of The Albright Group LLC. She is the first Michael and Virginia Mortara Endowed Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs both the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and serves as president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. Albright co-chairs the UNDP’s Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, serves on the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of Trustees for the Aspen Institute and the Board of Directors of the Center for a New American Security.

UF Law alumni Carol M. Browner and Janet R. Studley were instrumental in arranging the visit. Browner (JD 79) is a principal of The Albright Group LLC, a global strategy firm, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet for eight years. Studley (JD 76) is a partner with Holland & Knight in Washington D.C. and past chair of Holland & Knight’s Government Law Section. Studley also served as chief counsel to the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Practices and Open Government of the United States Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by the late Senator Lawton Chiles.