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U.S. Secretary of State addresses Class of 2000
11 May 2000

Text by Cathy Cockrell/Photos by Peg Skorpinski

With salutations to graduating seniors, "university officials, family members, protesters and friends," US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed UC Berkeley's Class of 2000 in a commencement ceremony, May 10, that managed to embody many of the campus's signature traditions.
 
Albright addresses the Class of 2000

The Secretary of State -- after suggesting that seniors would immediately begin to forget "the carefully memorized names of old composers, dead kings and the body parts of dissected frogs" -- focused her remarks on events in the international arena.

The highest-ranking woman in the US government, Albright recalled her surprise at being named the 64th US Secretary of State, and the first female to hold the office, after a run of 63 males.
 
Albright confers with Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl

"It's not that I was modest," she told the audience in Berkeley's outdoor Hearst Greek Theatre. "It's just that I had never seen a Secretary of State wearing a skirt."

The remark drew enthusiastic applause, as well as cries of "genocide!" from individuals in the audience opposed to US sanctions against Iraq. In all, 59 protesters were escorted from various locations in the amphitheater during the event.
 
Members of the UC Berkeley Class of 2000

The Secretary of State praised a number of current US foreign policy initiatives, including efforts to end international trafficking in women and girls, offer debt relief for the world's poorest countries, and oppose sweatshop conditions in the global apparel industry.

Responding to those who characterize students in their twenties as indifferent, Albright enumerated the humanitarian projects around the globe that have been conducted by Berkeley students.

"To those who say your generation is materialistic, I say come to Berkeley, which has contributed more Peace Corps volunteers than any other institution in our country," she said.
 
Family and friends take it all in at the Greek Theatre

Following Albright's departure, several commencement speakers, including former US Congressman Jerome Waldie, who graduated from Berkeley 50 years ago, reminded those gathered of the right to protest and the value of free speech.

Last to address the Class of 2000, which numbers 6,500, was this year's top graduating senior, University Medalist Fadia Rafeedie.

Originally scheduled to immediately precede Albright on the program, the 22-year-old daughter of Palestinian immigrants criticized Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but also the role of the US in building up "this brutal dictator" and imposing sanctions against Iraq that she said had led to the death of 2.5 million people.
 
University Medalist Fadia Rafeedie

Of the protesters inside and outside the amphitheater, she said emotionally: "They do not embarrass our university; I think they dignify it."

Rafeedie's speech, like Albright's earlier, brought Berkeley's Class of 2000 to its feet for a standing ovation.

Links:

Full text of Albright's commencement speech

University Medalist Fadia Rafeedie's speech

Secretary of State

Class of 2000 Commencement

Related stories:

Madeleine Albright heads a distinguished list of commencement speakers as UC Berkeley's Class of 2000 graduates

UC Berkeley's top graduating senior is driven by thirst for knowledge, good books and a commitment to others

 


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