Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on July 1 honored former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. The award recognizes exceptional service and personal sacrifice motivated by patriotism, good citizenship, and a sense of public responsibility.
In a ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Secretary Carter explained that Albright was being awarded the Department of Defense’s highest honor because of her “deep understanding of which mix of our nation’s foreign policy tools … is best for a given issue.” Carter asserted that Albright has “always known that in a complex and tumultuous world, our policy must be grounded in our interests and our ideals.” The “peace and stability” for which American servicemembers fight and sacrifice here “require just governance, meaningful reconciliation, improved education, economic progress, and the rule of law,” he said. “And at State and in her continued work as chair of the National Democratic Institute, Madeleine has helped develop and advance the instruments and institutions needed to make and keep peace.”
Albright, whose family fled to England when Hitler’s troops entered Czechoslovakia and then to the United States when her country of birth was taken over by the Communists, reflected on America’s welcoming of immigrants. Her father, she said, would cite a contrast. He said that in Europe, people would say to refugees, ‘We’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible dictator. You’re welcome here, what can we do to help you, and when are you going home?’”
“When we came to the United States, people said, ‘We’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible system. You’re welcome here, what can we do to help you, and when will you become a citizen?’”
“I have never forgotten the fundamental lesson taught to me by my parents,” Albright said. “And that is to honor and value American ideals.”
She paid tribute to American servicemen who, she said represent “every variety of background race, color and creed.” Albright said that as a young girl living in exile, she celebrated the role of U.S. troops in liberating Europe in 1944. “For the first time, but definitely not the last time -- I fell in love with Americans in uniform.”
Albright warned that “past lessons inform us that we cannot allow our country to become tired; we cannot pretend that we are not the United States.”
She said that despite its “challenges and defects,” the U.S. remains “the only nation blessed with the power to lead and the ideals to do so in a direction that most of the world would prefer to go -- towards fulfillment of that singular pledge: liberty and justice for all.”
Read Secretary Ash Carter’s remarks here.
Read Secretary Madeleine Albright’s remarks here.
Published on July 11, 2016