Madeleine Albright gave the keynote speech at the American Library Association's opening session tonight in New Orleans. She spoke about the importance of libraries in the preservation of liberty and told about her new book The Mighty and the Almighty. In the process she criticized current American foreign and domestic policy and was interrupted by applause frequently.
Before the keynote speech, members of the Social Responsibility Round Table distributed "Statement Concerning Madeleine Albright as the Keynote Speaker" to librarians approaching the great hall. It reminds ALA members of the "direct historical relationship between the Iraq policies of Secretary Albright and the current US Administration." It also criticizes Albright for her role in keeping American forces out of a rescue operation in Rwanda in 1994. The round table position is that Albright was not an appropriate choice for keynote speaker.
Inside the hall, Albright started by recognizing all the dignitaries who had preceded her at the lectern, including Mayor Nagin and Lieutenant Governor Landrieu. In discussing the emphasis of spreading democracy to other nations, she said that "what we preach abroad we should practice at home." In explaining the positions of terrorists and anti-terrorists that they are doing what has to be done, she stated that certainty is not a part of human condition. She cited that the care of strangers is a tenet of all religious traditions, and that world leaders should be able to use that commonality to forge bonds of peace. She also said that while we are proud of our traditions, we should also be able to imagine ourselves being born into other cultures with their other religious beliefs.
Hundreds of librarians lined up to have Albright sign her book.