Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under former president Bill Clinton, will deliver this year's graduation commencement address, Duke President Nan Keohane announced Thursday.
"She has accepted our invitation, is excited to be coming and I think she'll do a great job," Keohane said. "We're very excited she said yes."
Albright was the first female secretary of state and the highest ranking woman in the history of the United States government. Her tenure was marked by NATO intervention in Kosovo, improved U.S.-China relations, the reaching of stability in the Balkans and increased trade in the Americas and Africa. Keohane praised her for her efforts as a "tireless champion of the Middle East peace process and international cooperation."
"I'm completely delighted by her [selection]," said Gloria Borges, president of the Class of 2004. "The idea of such a great leader and a great example for women, obviously is something that I aspire to, being a woman and being involved in politics. And also just the fact that her foreign policy record... such an important part of world peace today, and foreign policy seems to be so central in current times, that having somebody like that to kind of inspire us with her words will be really great."
Prior to her appointment, Albright served as the United States permanent representative to the United Nations and as a member of President Clinton's Cabinet and National Security Council.
A Wellesley College graduate in political science like Keohane, Albright was also the former president of the Center for National Policy, and serves as the Michael and Virginia Mortara Endowed Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.
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Albright currently is a principal in The Albright Group LLC, a global strategy firm that she founded in Washington, D.C.
"I'm so excited, she's just so well known, politically and academically, especially as a female to have such a strong female candidate," said senior Jenny Woodson, a member of the Class of 2004 committee. "Personally, I'm a political science major... and I would love to be secretary of state, so to know that we're having Madeleine Albright.... I'm a little too excited."
This is the second-straight international political figure Duke has invited to give its commencement address. Last year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pulled out as the speaker just a few days before graduation because of an illness. Keohane read excerpts of his prepared remarks.
Emily Kloeblen, another member of the Class of 2004 committee, said she was was also thrilled about the selection.
"I just hope she doesn't get strep throat," she said.
Duke's graduation ceremonies will take place Sunday, May 9 this year. The honorary degree candidates have yet to be announced.