COMMENCEMENT 1997

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright delivered a Commencement address during Afternoon Exercises on June 5. The following are excerpts of her speech:

I'm delighted to be here on this day of celebration and rededication. To those of you who are here from the Class of '97, I say congratulations. You may be in debt, but you made it. And if you're not in debt now, after the alumni association gets through with you, you will be.

In fact, I would like to solicit the help of this audience for the State Department budget. It is under $20 billion.

As a former professor and current mother, I confess to loving graduation days -- especially when they are accompanied by an honorary degree. I love the ceremony; I love the academic settings; and although it will be difficult for me today--let's be honest--I love to daydream during the commencement speech.

Graduations are unique among the milestones of our lives, because they celebrate past accomplishments, while also anticipating the future.

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Today, we recall another turning point in that era. For on this day 50 years ago, Secretary of State George Marshall addressed the graduating students of this great university. He spoke to a class enriched by many who had fought for freedom and deprived of many who had fought for freedom and died. The Secretary's words were plain; but his message reached far beyond the audience assembled in this yard to an American people weary of war and wary of new commitments, and to a Europe where life-giving connections between farm and market, enterprise and capital, hope and future had been severed.

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British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin called the Marshall Plan a "lifeline to sinking men," and it was--although I expect some women in Europe were equally appreciative.

By extending that lifeline, America helped unify Europe's west around democratic principles and planted seeds of transatlantic partnership that would soon blossom in the form of NATO and the cooperative institutions of a new Europe. Just as important was the expression of American leadership that the Marshall Plan conveyed.

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Today, in the wake of the Cold War, it is not enough for us to say that Communism has failed. We, too, must heed the lessons of the past, accept responsibility and lead. Because we are entering a century in which there will be many interconnected centers of population, power and wealth, we cannot limit our focus, as Marshall did in his speech to the devastated battleground of a prior war. Our vision must encompass not one, but every continent.

Unlike Marshall's generation, we face no single galvanizing threat. The dangers we confront are less visible and more diverse -- some as old as ethnic conflict, some as new as letter bombs, some as subtle as climate change and some as deadly as nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands. To defend against these threats, we must take advantage of the historic opportunity that now exists to bring the world together in an international system based on democracy, open markets, law and a commitment to peace.

Let every nation acknowledge today the opportunity to be part of an international system based on democratic principles is available to all. This was not the case 50 years ago.

Then, my father's boss, Jan Masaryk--foreign minister of what was then Czechoslovakia--was told by Stalin in Moscow that his country must not participate in the Marshall Plan, despite its national interest in doing so. Upon his return to Prague, Masaryk said it was at that moment, he understood he was employed by a government no longer sovereign in its own land.