By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor ?
Shrewsbury – For the last nine years, the Abdella Center for Ethics Lecture Series at St. John's High School has hosted a number of notable figures, including Nobel Laureate and political activist Elie Wiesel, humanitarian and the founder of “Partners in Health, Dr. Paul Farmer, and ?Harvard professor Michael Sandel. On Jan. 23 the school welcomed this year's honored guest, Dr. Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. secretary of state and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Coincidentally, it was also the 16th anniversary of her official swearing-in as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.
Over 1000 people gathered in the school's Coaches Pavilion to hear Albright discuss her long and storied historic career as the first woman named to the post of secretary of state. But first, she held a small press conference for the students who work on the school's newspaper, “The Red and White” and members of the local media.
Albright stressed to the young journalists that not only was education “key,” it was imperative for learning critical thinking and decision making.
She was most proud of her work to help to end the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslaviaduring a war there in the late 1990s, she said. ???
On a day when current secretary of state Hillary Clinton was testifying before Congress about the Sept. 12, 2012 attack that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Albright voiced her support for Clinton. She added that she also supported Mass. Sen. John Kerry, who President Barack Obama has chosen as the next secretary of state.
Albright spoke at the press conference of the importance of remembering what often appears to be truth at first, often changes once more facts are uncovered. But it was not always easy, she acknowledged, getting all the information required to assess a situation. And a “24/7? media that wants everything right away,” compounds that difficulty, she added.
Albright expanded on that theme during her lecture, titled “The Courage to Listen.”
No one is born bigoted, she said; rather they are taught things that are disguised as truth. And it was important to “use our opinions to start discussions, not end them.”
Global problems such as education that doesn's meet the demands of a changing world, technology replacing jobs, global warming and weapons of mass destruction “getting into the wrong hands” were all things that would require “everyone working together,” she said.
“There can be no cooperation, no progress, if everyone only believes their way is the truth,” she added.
It was an important lesson she learned as secretary of state, she said, especially when dealing with leaders whose views were contrary to those of the United States. ?
“It was my job to protect the U.S. but to also listen,” she added. ?
Albright noted that she was not suggesting that one “cast aside your opinion.”
Rather, she said, that “you study those who make you the most upset. Stop venting for a month and subject yourself to the rigors of critical thinking. Just keep learning more.”
Albright was invited to speak at the school by Stephen J. Kerrigan, a graduate of the class of 1989. The Abdella Center for Ethics was established by the Hon. Charles A. Abdella, class of 1960, in memory of his father, George F. Abdella. Its mission, according to the school, is to promote a meaningful dialogue that highlights the importance of ethical values in society.