Madeleine Albright headlines New Jersey Speakers Series premiere

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During the inaugural New Jersey Speakers Series lecture, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright answers a variety of audience questions. Steve Scott, news anchor for WCBS Newsradio 880, moderated the event. (Photos by Michael Paras)

By Andrew McKay and Kenna Caprio

The inaugural season of the New Jersey Speakers Series, presented by Fairleigh Dickinson University, debuted Thursday night with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Infusing wit, warmth and wisdom into her discussion, she provided the audience with a revealing examination of today’s international conflicts.

The 2014-15 New Jersey Speakers Series brings esteemed world leaders, acclaimed authors and prominent individuals to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark for seven Thursday evening presentations.

“We take special pride in offering programs that enrich the cultural and intellectual life of our community — programs like this that bring to the community lessons of leadership, stories that define our times and voices that truly inspire,” said University President Sheldon Drucker, who thanked sponsors and subscribers for making the series possible.

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University President Sheldon Drucker introduces the New Jersey Speakers Series, presented by FDU, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
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Peter Sammartino School of Education Associate Professor Khyati Joshi, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and alumna Christina Jackson, MAT'14 (Metro), pose for a photograph before the event.

Sharing a perspective both enlightening and pragmatic, Albright opened her lecture by declaring that diplomacy is no longer like a “game of chess” but rather “more like a game of billiards,” where one strike of the pool cue hits more than just one ball. “It’s unpredictable,” said Albright. To combat the chaos, Albright firmly believes that the United States must not isolate itself from the world, but instead build strong partnerships and coalitions.

“Secretary Albright’s reflections on her service at the turn of the 21st century revealed the framework in which all Americans now find ourselves: We are part of an interconnected world, and U.S. diplomacy matters precisely because of all the ways — from family ties to global trade to public health — in which our lives connect with every corner of the globe,” said Khyati Joshi, associate professor of education and lecture guest.

Hitting on a number of international crises — including the rise of the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, in the Middle East; Russian aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea; China’s modern military and increasing assertion in Asia; and the devastating Ebola outbreak plaguing West Africa — Albright maintained that nations are interdependent and that the United States must lead the way. “Terrible things happen when great nations are weary,” she cautioned. “We can’t let our fear of overreach prevent us from reaching out.”

Still, Albright warned against the idea of America acting as the world’s policeman, and noted that no one nation can possibly remedy all global conflicts. “In today’s interconnected world, some crises must be managed before they can be solved.” Albright added that she has long been committed to a principle her parents believed in and nurtured in her: honoring the value of liberty.

She also fielded audience questions pertaining to her time as Secretary of State and on the legacy of the Iraq War; the future of America’s relations with Russia; the tough decisions of the Kosovo war; the experience of being a woman dealing with world leaders; and the impressive collection of pins she owns. Steve Scott, news anchor for WCBS Newsradio 880, one of the University’s media partners for the series, introduced the lecture and moderated the question and answer session.

As the first female U.S. Secretary of State, Albright was a member of former President Bill Clinton’s administration from 1997-2001. Previously, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Born in Prague, her family fled the Nazi invasion during WWII, and later the Communists, before settling in Denver, Colo. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Albright currently is a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

More coverage:

NJ.com: What would you ask the former Secretary of State?

WCBS Newsradio 880: A conversation with Madeleine Albright

The New Jersey Speakers Series continues with award-winning actor Alan Alda on October 30, 2014, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on November 20, 2014, followed by former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (January 8, 2015), former Presidential advisor and current CNN political commentator David Gergen (February 19, 2015), Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough (March 19, 2015), and former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather (April 23, 2015).

The New Jersey Speakers Series, presented by Fairleigh Dickinson University, is sponsored by Hollister Construction Services, PNC Bank, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, WCBS Newsradio, The Star-Ledger and Prestige Automotive Group.

The series is sold by subscription only. For tickets or information, visit www.NJSpeakersSeries.org, or call 1-888-MY-NJPAC or 1-888-696-5722.