Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Comes to Bridgewater College

High Profile Speaker Sparks Rumors About High Costs


Professor Jennifer Babcock

The event in Cole Hall had about 400 in-person attendees and 130 viewers through a livestream. The event was open to Bridgewater College students, faculty and members of the wider community.

Mackenzie Hammack, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke in conversation with President David Bushman on Oct. 6 as part of Bridgewater College’s Endowed Lectures Program. 

The format of the event, held in Cole Hall and live-streamed, was a conversation between BC President David Bushman and Albright with Bushman asking questions; Albright often responded with anecdotes about her experiences. Topics included everything from Albright’s role models to what she thinks of the United States’s relationship with China and the way it might impact international relations. Much of the focus landed on Albright’s career in politics and her opinion of various political topics, but she also placed some emphasis on her experience as a woman in politics.

“Women really do have to work twice as hard. There’s really no question. The assumption is that you just can’t do it,” Albright said when offering advice to women interested in diplomacy and international relations. Later on, Albright also touched on the fact that it was “very interesting to be the first woman Secretary of State” due to people judging her based on her appearance.

The event was part of the Endowed Lectures Program, which works “to bring in different speakers that appeal to different majors and different areas of study” according to Senior Instructor of Communication Studies and Theatre and Director of Endowed Lectures Jennifer Babcock. This event was intended especially for students majoring in global studies or political science or minoring in leadership. 

While Albright was a highly anticipated speaker, her presence caused some to voice criticism of the college’s management of resources. 

Complaints were made on social media about how expensive it likely was to have such a prominent speaker brought to BC with some speculating that tuition funds were used. 

Albright Madeleine Promotion Picture
Madeleine Albright was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton from 1997-2001. During her talk at Bridgewater College, she touched on being the first female secretary of state. (Lauren Bulbin)

“We’re very lucky to have alumni and others who have donated money to the college to be used for specific purposes – like lectures. The donated funds (or endowments) earn interest, and each year a portion of that interest is used to fund our speakers,” said Babcock. “No tuition dollars are spent on speakers including Albright,” she added. 

Approximately 500 people attended the lecture, combined in-person and online.

“She’s very engaging when talking,” said Professor of Global Studies Robert Andersen, who attended the event in-person. He added that she is able to be engaging when talking about a variety of topics, whether it is facism or the pins she wears.

In addition to being a diplomat, Albright is also an author and teacher. She briefly talked about her writing process, when prompted by Bushman, and stated that she believes teaching has been the most important part of her career.

Several times Albright referenced her childhood as her father was a diplomat, and his job led to her family emigrating to the United States from Czechoslovakia when she was a child.

“I’m a great believer in the U.N., and we wouldn’t have come to the United States if it weren’t for the United Nations,” said Albright.

“I feel like, as a political science major, Madeleine Albright is infamous. She made a lot of good and bad decisions during her term, and I feel like all the questions that I heard were addressed, “ said sophomore Katelin Carter. “I wish they would’ve asked controversial questions to make it more interesting,” 

While some of the topics touched on, such as war, were darker in nature, Albright and Bushman made sure to begin and end the conversation on lighter notes. When talking about her personal life, Albright said she “waited a long time to get married: three days after [college] graduation,” leading to laughter from the audience.

Jeff Corwin, an Emmy-winning TV host, conservationist, and wildlife biologist, is the next speaker in the 2021-2022 Endowed Lecture program. He is scheduled for Nov. 10.