tv Madeleine Albright Commencement Address at Tufts University CSPAN May 31, 2015 12:20pm-12:38pm EDT
a day my own lifetime when the hope of liberty and justice for all seemed quite impossible. but because individuals kept faith with the ideals of equality, we see a different america today. you are headed into a world for optimists are too often told to keep their ideals to themselves. do not do it. believe in the possibility of human progress and asked to advance it. what do i mean by human progress? i believe that all human beings share a certain fundamental aspiration they want protection for their lives and their liberty, they want to think freely and to wish her -- worship as they wish. they want to educate their children, and they want to be ruled by the consent of the governed, not by the collusion of state. -- coercion of state. [applause]
and, they want to be treated with respect. matter who they are, or how they look. this challenges us to accept and embrace difference. all too often, difference has been used to divide and dehumanize. i grew up in birmingham, alabama. clue clucks clan, church bombings and once described as the most segregated city in america. i know how it feels to all aspirations when your neighbors think that you are incapable or uninterested in anything higher and press there are some members of this audience who have faced that from time to time. we have not, and will not erase the impact of our birth defect of slavery, or the challenge of overcoming prejudices of one another. please remember this, we do not
have a constitutional right not to be offended. we are americans. [applause] we are americans and a believe that we are fundamentally decent people. and in every decent society, whether here or abroad, we should seek not to offend, but we will help our cause if we also result to be slow in taking offense. it is a great act of kindness give someone else the benefit of the doubt. try to react to others as you would hope they would react to you, no matter the color of their skin, and no matter the color of yours. and as we look from here out into the world for men and women seem very -- seek the very basic liberties that we enjoy, let us
remember that they are different, but their desires for freedom are like ours. in my professional life i have listened to people say that men and women of asia or africa or the middle east are not drawn to the dignities that we enjoy. maybe they are not ready, to tribal, or poor or religious do not patronize them in this way. it is your responsibility as educated people to help close the gaps of justice and opportunity, and the gaps of freedom that still exist beyond our shores just as we do here at home. at william and mary, i know the mission of service is very close to the heart of the service -- of the college. the ideal of service to others has inspired this class and those before to devote thousands of hours of your own time to help those in need.
yes, your service has and will help them. but it is true that it helps you more. when you encounter those who are less fortunate, you cannot possibly give way to grievance. why do i not have? or it's twin brother, entitlement. why don't they give me? you will ask, why have i been given so much? and from that spirit you will join the legions of optimists and idealists who are working toward a better human future. what better place to draw on that spirit been here in colonial williamsburg, where a college educated patriot like john marshall or thomas jefferson, went forth to build a new nation based on equality, justice, and rule of law. political institutions did not always live up to the grand aspirations expressed in the great document.
they in their endeavors were imperfect, as are all human beings. they stumbled, sometimes they fell. but they kept going. they left a legacy that allow future generations, descendents of the free, and descendents of slaves, to pick up the torch and walks toward the goal to making we the people a more inclusive concept. you now leave that very college william and mary to join the ranks of the world's most privileged community, the community of the educated. it is a club that you may never quite, and from which you can never be expelled. but remember that it does confirm responsibilities. so as you leave, i ask you to bear a few things in mind. be passionate about what you choose to do in life. use your powers of reason, cultivate humility remain optimistic and always try to
serve others and the goals of freedom and justice. capture this morning -- moment forever in your mind's eye the day when you and your parents and your family and your friends came to this place to celebrate a new beginning, and affirm on this day that as you leave this place, you will always remember why you came. may god speed you on your way today, and for the rest of your lives. thank you. [applause] >> former secretary of state clinton albright was the commencement speaker this year
it is very satisfying to work hard and earn one it is an utter delight to receive one simply for showing up. that is not the only reason that i'm excited to be here. although i did not attend tufts i feel a personal connection to this outstanding university. this is not where i met one of my personal heroes after he delivered a speech, and i never imagined that i would one day be appointed to his job. it is not that i lacked ambition, i just never seen a secretary of state in a skirt. as a professor and mother of three college graduates i have to confess that i just love commencement ceremonies. they are unique milestone in our lives, because they celebrate past accomplishments and future possibilities. to the parents of the class of 2015, i can only say the moment
has finally come. having once been in your position, i expect that you were thinking with some amazement about how short the interval is between diapers and a blow list. to the students, i say congratulations. in order to reach this day you had to pass one of the most difficult tests of all surviving a truly wicked boston winter. now that you have all thought out when you will soon realize that graduation is one of the five great milestones of life. the others being birth, that, marriage and the day you finally pay off your student loans. today is a time for celebration and for looking back and admitting all of the hard work of reading and writing and studying in cramming before tests was indeed worth it. in future years you'll recall this ceremony and you will
understand that today, may 17 2015 was the day you first began to forget everything you began to learn in college and graduate school. as the names of dead european kings and the body parts of dissected animals again to fade the true value of your days on the hill in boston will become more and more apparent. by studying here at tufts, you alongsidee students from more than a hundred countries this outward orientation is vital because the class of 2015 will truly live global lives. you will compete in a global workplace, shop in a global racket place and trouble further and more often than any other prior generation.
to succeed you will require the kind of knowledge that extends warily -- beyond mere facts to knowledge of self. i know from my own experience that such wisdom can be hard to obtain. i arrived at wellesley college about halfway between the invention of the apple watch and the discovery of fire. i had one basic goal which was to be accepted. as an immigrant, i didn't want to stand out; i wanted to fit in. fortunately, in the 1950's conformity was encouraged though we were also in a period of transition. women were finding our voices at wellesley, but we were also expected to be young ladies except perhaps during that occasional outing to boston. in college, i learned much about renaissance composers, and shakespearean plays and the periodic table; but i also learned an awful lot about myself that i wanted to use the fine education i had received for something more meaningful
than table conversation; that i wanted to test not simply accept the limits and boundaries of the life i was preparing to lead; and that i wanted to give something back to this country that had given so much to me. i suspect that the same is true for you and your experience here at tufts. you arrived here having already lived 21st century lives. some came from the nearby towns in new england, others from the suburbs of los angeles and the city neighborhoods of chicago. some were raised amid the skyscrapers of hong kong, others in iraqi refugee camps in syria. some lost loved ones in 9/11 and all of you lived through the trauma of the boston marathon bombing and its aftermath. regardless of where you came from, at tufts you have learned much about what is outside you and much about what is inside you, as well. you learned how to put your
opinions and your assumptions to a test. this is important, because from this day forward, you will have to rely not on grades or guidance from professors to tell you how you're doing and where you stand. you will have to rely, instead on an inner compass; whether that compass is true will determine whether you become a drifter who is blown about by every breeze; or a doer, an active citizen determined to chart your own course, question your assumptions, and, when necessary, sail unafraid against strong winds. i look around this morning at the class of 2015, and i have to tell you that all i see are doers. which is good because, in years to come, there will be much for you to do, both here at home and overseas. i am keenly aware that commencement speakers have a
habit of ticking through the world's problems, and then challenging graduates to fix them. and yes, that is what i plan to do. but when i tell you that the world needs you, i really, really do mean it. for we are living in a time that is more unsettled, more complicated, and more in need of a new generation of leaders than any that i can recall. at home, america's great challenge will be to retain a sense of community and common purpose. as today's graduates reflect, we are a diverse people. we're all proud of the distinctions that give us our separate identities; and loyal to the groups to which we this kind of solidarity is a belong. this kind of solidarity is a means of honoring ancestors and a way to inspire the young. it makes us feel less alone, and helps us find for ourselves a unique place in a crowd.
but there is also a danger; because when pride in “us” descends into fear or hatred of “them,” the american tapestry unravels and the social fabric is torn. the result may be a young african-american gunned down in florida, a shooting at a jewish community center in kansas city, or a gay couple brutally attacked at a new york restaurant. yes, we are proud of our group identities, but it is what comes after the hyphen in czech-american african-american latino-american, white-american, or any of the hundreds of other varieties of american that counts most. no matter our race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, we are all equal shareholders in the american dream. and that means we do not fear our differences, we embrace them. [applause]
living up to that principle, and valuing fairly the contributions of each other, is what tufts' council on campus diversity was all about, and it is the great test our nation must pass in the 21st century. around the world, we will face other tests, the outcome of which is equally uncertain. today, the international landscape is as contradictory and combustible as i have ever seen. technology and globalization have helped bring about unprecedented prosperity and progress for millions of people, but they've also cast new shadows upon the world. we see this in the resurgence of nationalism in europe and asia alongside rising sectarianism and extremism in the middle east. we see it in the widening gap between rich and poor, and the growing dangers to the environmental health of our planet.
we see how technology has given new destructive tools to groups who use religion as a license to murder, as if god's commandment were “thou shalt kill.” and we see how many of the assumptions of my generation and your parents' generation about the 21st century have been proven wrong. to put it another way, the world's a mess. that is a diplomatic term of art. i am sorry, but it is true. yet for all the anxieties and turmoil that surround us, i have to say that i remain an optimist , though an optimist who worries a lot. around the world, america remains the brightest beacon of human liberty. we are diverse, we are entrepreneurial, and we are resilient. no other country is in a better position to succeed in this new era than