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In the News: Boe Forum on Public Affairs

By Dawn Wille, Augustana junior, Truman, Minn.

With a mix of humor and seriousness, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Thursday called for the government to “clean up its act” regarding the nation’s economy and its place in the Middle East.

As the featured speaker for the 2010 Boe Forum on Public Affairs, sponsored by the Center for Western Studies at Augustana College, Albright drew from her experiences in the Clinton Administration to highlight financial and foreign issues and recommend solutions before a crowd of nearly 3,000.

“The global economic crisis has shaken our faith in major financial institutions and generated controversy in the role of government,” she said.

After being named the first female secretary of state in 1997, Albright became the highest ranking woman in the U.S. government at the time. Her job directed her attention to financial issues within the nation and to foreign policy. Her speech, “Geopolitics and the Implications for Doing Business and Investing Around the World,” was the fifteenth Boe Forum lecture, a series founded by Nils Boe, a South Dakota federal judge and governor.

Albright acknowledged the insecurities that surface from a declining economy.

“The economists tell us that, according to data, the recession has been over for some time, which is nice to hear but doesn’t pay the bills,” she said. “Nor does it change the fact that Americans are having a hard time finding a job, paying for college and putting food on the table.”

Albright encouraged citizens to maintain optimism, saying “there are grounds for hope that the employment picture will improve for those that hire. And those that invest will become confident that the economy is not about to tank once again.”

At a news conference for area journalism students earlier on Thursday, Albright urged investors to consider world markets.

“It’s really good business. No country anymore is totally isolated. We have a completely integrated world and completely integrated markets.”

Albright said the U.S. government needs to “deal with the growing gap between the rich and the poor. It’s wrong and it’s dangerous. There is no link between poverty and terrorism, but it doesn’t take a big imagination to think [it could happen].”

Albright says the U.S. government has a strategy to help Afghans improve their country through “political reform, economic development, and plans to encourage the lay down of weapons.”

Albright currently serves as chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets.

According to the Albright Stonebridge Group, helping businesses in countries like Afghanistan establish economic stability with sound financial practices can improve more than individual businesses.

“Companies and communities thrive when businesses become active, contributing participants,” said the Albright Stonebridge website.

Albright said Americans’ attitudes have historically helped improve the global outlook.

“What I have felt makes America different from other places is our sense of optimism,” she said. “I think to some extent that has been daunted recently, and we have to get that back.”

Though Albright stated the process of healing will take time, she wants America to regain its dignity.

“I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our country shouldn’t shy away from hard problems. I want America to get back its mojo.”

Throughout the speech, audience laughter roared through the Elmen center.

“I loved it because she was funny and amusing,” said Augustana junior Maggie Olson. “She didn’t just talk at the audience. She was interactive and engaging.”

Linda Ashby, a Sioux Falls resident, said it was “wonderful to see someone who knows what she’s talking about.”

“I liked her humor aspect,” said Augustana junior Amber Fick. “It made the whole endeavor livelier. I’m glad there are people like that in our government.”

“I thought she was terrific,” said Augustana Communications Professor Dr. Heather Bart. “She’s an example of what people can do if they put their mind to it and get a good education.”

Read additional accounts of Dr. Albright's visit to Augustana College for the 2010 Boe Forum on Public Affairs in the Argus Leader and USA Today.