Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, delivers Tanner Lecture, speaks to Maxwell classes

In her lecture and class visit, Albright reflected on her 40-year career in international affairs and diplomatic challenges facing America today.

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State (1997-2001) and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, visited the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University on April 5, 2016, to deliver the Tanner Lecture on Ethics, Citizenship, and Public Responsibility. While on campus, she also visited with graduate students and took questions during an hour-long combined session of two Maxwell-based undergraduate courses.

The Tanner Lecture (eighth in the series) took the form of a conversation and Q&A, moderated by James B. Steinberg, dean of the Maxwell School and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (2009-2011). Albright addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 faculty, staff, students, community members, and the media assembled in Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel, and another 500 viewers in 39 countries via livestream. She and Steinberg conducted a discussion of the Secretary’s 40-year career in international affairs and the current threats and challenges to U.S. foreign policy.

Prior to the lecture, Albright spoke to the classes Violence and Reconciliation (taught by Azra Hrodmadzic, anthropology) and Global Markets & International Relations (taught by international economist Mary Lovely). Approximately 30 undergraduate students attended the class, which touched on a variety of international relations questions and concluded with student questions. Albright’s day also included a luncheon attended by a dozen students and a small number of Maxwell faculty and University staff.

“Secretary Albright’s visit shows once again why Maxwell is a unique place,” says Hromadzic. “The small classroom setting provided an atmosphere of collegial engagement, allowing students to ask thoughtful questions about complex global issues and to learn firsthand how to communicate about those issues in a manner that is at once informative, politically mindful and personally accessible."

Keome Rowe, a master’s student in public administration and international relations, sat with Albright during the luncheon. “She stressed the importance of being a good listener,” he says, “by engaging various stakeholders and understanding their positions, embracing public-private partnerships, and understanding their cultural and religious beliefs; and, lastly, by learning how to ask the right questions and understanding the implications of those actions to make an informed and sound policy decision. All of these things only reinforce what I am learning at the Maxwell School.”


Dean Steinberg opened the Tanner Lecture by asking about the importance of academic preparation and scholarly immersion to her public life and work. “The truth is that I don’t think that at the time you are making decisions you actually think, ‘Aha, I did that in PoliSci 105,’” Albright reflected. “You don’t just dip back, but you are immersed in what you have learned and why you have learned it.” 

Albright also stressed the importance of retaining an academic mindset throughout one’s career: “I missed very much having discussions with my academic colleagues, and I tried very hard at various times to bring some into the State Department to have what I called No Fault Discussions.” She went on to discuss current trends in domestic and international politics including bipartisanship and the importance of working across the aisle, the impact of technology and globalization on shaping political worldviews, and on the unique challenges of being the highest ranking female official during her time as Secretary of State among other topics.

The former Secretary also took questions from the audience, which ranged from her use of brooches as a form of social and diplomatic communication to her favorite book (War and Peace) and her reflections on the genocide in Rwanda.

Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute and professor of political science at the Maxwell School, provided opening remarks, offering a long list of path-breaking woman of Central New York, among them the Syracuse University’s women’s basketball team, which was playing in the national championship that evening. “As a trailblazing woman, you have come to the right place to speak. This area has a rich tradition in that regard. From Harriet Tubman, to the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, to National Organization for Women President Karen DeCrow, to Oneida Nation singer and songwriter Joanne Shenandoah, to our current political executives and SU alums Joanie Mahoney and Stephanie Miner, and there are many others. It’s a thrill and an honor to have you here.”

The Tanner Lecture Series on Ethics, Citizenship, and Public Responsibility provides a public forum for exploring questions about ethical citizenship in provocative and challenging ways. The series has been generously endowed by alumnus W. Lynn Tanner '75 PhD, founder, CEO, and chairman of TEC Canada, a leadership development organization dedicated to accelerating the growth and development of outstanding 21st-century leaders. The lecture series is coordinated by the Maxwell School’s Campbell Public Affairs Institute.