The John B. Davis (JBD) Lecture Hall hosted a roundtable discussion on national security with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Tuesday, October 18. Joining the Secretary were Eric Schwartz, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, and Representative Betty McCollum.
Prior to the event, a line of students, alumni and community members stretched from the doors of JBD to the outside of the Campus Center; those who could not find a seat stood along the walls or sat in the aisles. “The line was really long, but I’m excited to hear the Secretary speak today,” Jesse Crosby ’20 said at the outset of the event.
A Macalester alum who volunteers for the Hillary for America campaign walked onstage at 1:30 p.m. to introduce Senior Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, 30 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin. “What a crowd!” Senator Klobuchar said upon reaching the lectern, before offering an enthusiastic endorsement of Secretary Hillary Clinton and a criticism of her opponent Donald Trump.
“I was thinking as I came over here about what’s going on around the world and in our own country… and what do we hear from Donald Trump? Tweetstorms, going after everyone, cozying up to Putin,” she said.
“And on the other side of this we have a leader like Hillary Clinton. She is someone with a spine of steel. It was Hillary Clinton who was sitting in the situation room and advising the President as he went after Osama Bin Laden. That is serious stuff. She has the steady hand that we need when it comes to national security.”
The three main speakers of the event received thunderous applause as they walked out on stage. First to speak was Eric Schwartz, who offered some thoughts on national security, Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump. He recalled his years in the State Department during Bill Clinton’s time in office, when he was the principal point of contact on humanitarian issues for the First Lady’s office and spent considerable time traveling abroad with Clinton.
“She is an individual with a deep understanding of American issues… who knows that we are at our strongest when we practice abroad [what] we preach at home. It’s really a pleasure to support this wonderful woman,” he concluded.
Congresswoman McCollum spoke next, expressing her dismay over the tone of the election. “I know that this is the first national election for many of you, and it should be a really exciting time where you’re hearing policy discussions and how to take America forward, and instead you’re hearing how to take America backward from Donald Trump,” she said.
She was followed by Secretary Albright, who highlighted Clinton’s experience and offered her thoughts on current affairs and national security. “The world’s a mess, by the way, which is a diplomatic term of ours,” she joked, in the first of several humorous remarks that popped up throughout her speech.
Like the other speakers, she underlined Clinton’s experience as a diplomat as one of the most compelling parts of her candidacy: “She understands that you have to deal with your enemies by talking with them and figuring it out… We’ve all been in those fancy rooms, but what you really have to do is talk to people and work with them. She knows more about the issues than any president ever. Ever.”
Secretary Albright went on to discuss the Middle East and North Korea, and also described her first experience voting in a national election, for John F. Kennedy in 1960. She also made a case against voting for a third-party candidate, arguing that a vote for a third-party is a waste of a vote.
The Q&A portion of the event began at 2:10 p.m., and though it was brief, it allowed all of the speakers to discuss the issues in conversation with one another. Questions included: ‘What is Hillary’s ability to foster bipartisanship and work across the aisle?’ ‘What was the specific moment when you knew Hillary Clinton was the best woman for the job?’ ‘What should we look out for in the next Presidential debate?’
In answering the first question, all the speakers agreed that Clinton has an ability to work across the aisle and come up with a solution. In response to the second question, both Schwartz and Albright spoke of their experiences traveling abroad with Clinton.
“We went to [the] Congo and she saw the conditions of the IDP in the DRC and she was relentless in terms of focusing the concern and attention of the government on these people,” Schwartz said. “She was one of the most well-loved Secretaries of State in recent history—present company excluded. That says something about her character.”
Tackling the third question, McCollom laughed and said, “I’m waiting to see, one, if he shows up, two, how long he stays on stage, and three, how he insults America again.”
Albright added, “As I understand it, it is supposed to be a debate on national security. I hope that the questions are about national security and that the moderator will not put up with ‘I have a plan, but it’s secret.’”
Pivoting to the role of the media in this election cycle, Albright continued, “I’m very disappointed in one aspect of this campaign, which is that the media has not allowed the people to know what the issues are. I do a lot of TV, and you see my face, but you don’t see the interviewer, who goes [gestures to her throat] any time you want to say a third sentence, and these are very complicated issues.”
As the event came to a close, Albright wrapped up the Roundtable by encouraging everyone in the audience to go to the polls on Election Day. “I think that going out and voting is so important. We all have something we have to do on November , which is [to] bring this country together.”