Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Tuesday evening that she felt a special kinship with Edward R. Stettinius as she accepted a new award named in his honor.
University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan presented Albright with the University’s inaugural Edward R. Stettinius Award for Global Leadership at a dinner at the Boar’s Head Inn.
Stettinius was a former UVA student who became U.S. secretary of state and the first U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during World War II. He later returned to Grounds to become the University’s rector.
Speaking before an audience that included former U.S. Sen. John Warner of Virginia, former Virginia First Lady Lynda Robb and several members of the Stettinius family, Albright said she was “honored and delighted” to receive the award.
Albright was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997, when she was named the first female secretary of state, becoming at that time the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.
She said she felt a kinship with Stettinius because they shared two of the same jobs. “I also understand why his hair went prematurely gray,” she said to great laughter.
Turning serious, Albright praised her predecessor’s work, especially his role in advancing the United States’ World War II-era Lend-Lease program. She said it was an excellent example of U.S. leadership that transcended the harmful nationalist tendencies that threaten today’s world order.
It was in his leadership of the program, she said, “where Edward Stettinius had the greatest impact on me personally, and that is because I was a child in England during World War II. My parents and I had fled from our native Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s troops marched into Prague.
“Among my first memories are those of sitting with our neighbors during air raids, huddled together in the shelter while enemy bombers flew overhead, waiting for the all-clear to sound.”
The Lend-Lease program helped turn the tide of the war by arming the Allies with American-made weaponry. “Under the able leadership of Stettinius, the program would provide more than $50 billion in armaments and financial support to Great Britain, the Soviet Union and 37 other countries,” she said.
Albright also expressed gratitude to Stettinius for helping form the United Nations because it made it possible for her family to come to the United States. “My father was the Czechoslovak representative to the United Nations for a new commission on India and Pakistan to deal with Kashmir, and that’s how we got here,” she said.
Also Tuesday night, the first female editor of Nigeria’s largest newspaper, Punch, received the first Young Leader award, bestowed by the Presidential Precinct, an educational partnership among UVA, the College of William & Mary, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland and UVA’s Morven.
Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye said the award was the biggest honor of her life, especially because she was honored alongside Albright.
The awards ceremony was part of a two-day forum on global leadership co-sponsored by the Presidential Precinct and the U.S. Department of State.