Our sincerest condolences to all who cherished her friendship and wise counsel on the passing yesterday of former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright at age 84. She had good friends in the City of Falls Church, and was the keynote speaker at the June 1997 commencement ceremony at (then) George Mason High School, now Meridian. To this day, she is the most internationally recognized speaker ever at a public event in the Little City. She came to speak here at the height of her responsibilities as Secretary of State to honor the memory of the father of a graduate of that Class of 1997. Robert Frasure lived with his family in the City of Falls Church before dying in a traffic accident in 1995 in the midst of his tireless diplomatic efforts to end the terrible conflict in Bosnia.
Albright was well known for her commitment to such things, never losing her personal touch and willingness to contribute with her thoughts and endorsements to political campaigns in this region. But as the first woman Secretary of State in U.S. history, she was also a brilliant and tough negotiator. She had to flee the Nazis and Soviets in Czechoslovakia and only much later in life was it revealed to her that she and her family were Jewish but masqueraded as Catholics to survive. In 2018 she authored a highly-regarded New York Times best selling book entitled, “Fascism, A Warning.”
In her 1997 commencement address in Falls Church, she admonished the students, asking, “Can we be one America, respecting and celebrating our differences but embracing even more what we have in common…not just in terms of hyphens the showing our ethnic origins, but in terms of our primary allegiance to the values America stands for and the values we really live by.
“Traveling around the world in the last few years I have seen the costs of prejudice and hate, I have seen that the alternative to dialogue is often destruction.
“Genocide is not an inborn trait…It is caused by leaders who nurture hate and who exploit it for their own ends…It happens when no one stands up to lead people toward reason and away from revenge.
“It matters to America whether nations succeed as peaceful societies or perish in violence…striving for a peace that Sarah’s father and many other dedicated Americans helped to forge.
“Patriotism is not just love of America, but a commitment to preserve what is best about America…It is not ‘my country right or wrong,’ it is accepting our shared duty as citizens to keep America on the side of peace and freedom and tolerance at home and around the world… to represent what is best about America — optimistic, full of hope, willing to serve, willing to believe, as did St. Francis, that if you start by doing what’s necessary, then do what is possible, suddenly you will be doing the impossible.”