BRUNSWICK, Maine — Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state, reflected on life during her college career, calling on Bowdoin College’s graduates of 2013 to approach the changing world with confidence despite the burdens they will inherit from the previous generation.
Albright, a Bowdoin honorary degree recipient, was the keynote speaker of the annual Baccalaureate Ceremony Friday that marked the close of the academic year for the college. She spoke to a crowd of thousands at the college’s Watson Arena.
Americans are more pessimistic about the future than before, Albright said, and she admitted that the burdens left by her generation for future generations are great. However, she offered three words of advice to those who are graduating with a sense of self-pity: “Get over it.”
Each generation faces a set of unique challenges, she explained. Back then, she said, the greatest impact that a woman could have was by accidentally spilling hot tea in the lap of an ambassador, while today’s youths are confronted with a world that is constantly evolving.
“In 2013, stability is no longer a viable concept. Professions like law, engineering, health care, journalism and education are being transformed,” Albright said. “The demands in the workplace will continue to change.”
She stressed that there is now pressure unlike ever before on recent graduates entering the workplace to be constantly innovating and learning.
Albright emphasized that amid the rapid change of the 21st century, a few things remain constant. She touched upon the need for collective efforts and compassion, especially when we are faced with environmental challenges.
“We’re all members of one community, breathing the same air and sharing the same planet,” she said. She explained that each person has a choice — to live for themselves alone or to do what they can to make a better life for everyone.
Albright was the 64th U.S. secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton. She also acted as the 20th U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Originally born in the Czech Republic, Albright fled the country with her family twice. The second time in 1948, they took refuge in the U.S.