Apr. 30, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas— Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will receive an honorary doctorate from St. Edward’s University and will deliver a recorded commencement address to the Class of 2020 during the virtual Spring Commencement program.

In recognition of lifetime achievements that include upholding freedom and human rights around the world, St. Edward’s University is proud to proclaim Dr. Madeleine K. Albright Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

In a time of imbalance, economic uncertainty and other societal challenges, Dr. Albright’s life and career are a model of strength and adaptability for our Class of 2020 and many others.

Her powerful voice continues to be heard on the principles she has championed throughout her life’s work — democracy, international cooperation, education and human rights. These values reflect the distinguishing characteristics of our Holy Cross education: the courage to take risks, an international perspective, and the commitment to provide educational opportunities for students from all backgrounds.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Dr. Albright wrote on the importance of resiliency during the pandemic.

“It might do well for us to view these abnormal days as an opportunity to ask more of ourselves, to reflect on our relations with one another, and think critically about improving the social, economic and political structures that shape our lives,” Albright said.

“We can draw inspiration from those who have surmounted high obstacles in the past, and vow to make the new normal that we aim to bring about better, more just and more secure than the old,” she added.

Dr. Albright was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, two years before the Nazi invasion of the young democratic nation. She and her family escaped to London in 1939, where, she recalls, her “daily experiences were shaped by food rations, curfews, blackout curtains and shortages of almost everything.” After the war, her family moved to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where her father was a Czechoslovak diplomat. In 1948, they were granted political asylum in the United States after the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia.

By the time she entered Wellesley College on scholarship, she had watched world affairs unfold from a front-row seat. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the college and went on to earn a master’s and doctorate from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government. Soon after graduating, Dr. Albright entered politics, serving first on the staff of Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, then on President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council.

Dr. Albright joined the faculty of Georgetown University in 1982, where her extraordinary support for higher education continues to this day as a Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy in the School of Foreign Service.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Dr. Albright the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She has worked tirelessly throughout her life to advance international cooperation, calling globalization the “interconnectedness of the world in the 21st century.”

In 1997, she stepped into her best-known role as the 64th, and first female, Secretary of State. A trailblazer throughout her life, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government at the time. As the country’s top diplomat, she was a fierce advocate for human rights, the spread of democracy and the creation of civil societies in the developing world.

Dr. Albright’s work was just getting started. As president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, she inspires our brightest young people to pursue careers as public service leaders. As chair of the National Democratic Institute, she promotes democracy and free and fair elections around the world. She has written seven books.

In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At the ceremony, President Obama shared one of his favorite stories about Dr. Albright. “’Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, ‘Only in America can a refugee meet the Secretary of State.’ And she replied, ‘Only in America can a refugee become the Secretary of State.’”

We honor Dr. Albright, whose extraordinary personal journey and life’s work have inspired not only the St. Edward’s community but people around the world. Her contributions reflect our own mission to help our students confront the critical issues of society and to seek justice and peace.