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Public Affairs : 2013 Thayer Award

Albright honored for lifetime of service 

Story and photos by Mike Strasser
Assistant Editor
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2013) — When the Corps of Cadets marched onto the Plain for the Review Oct. 17, the Honorable Madeleine Albright was overwhelmed with emotion.

She admitted as much afterward to the cadets during the 2013 Sylvanus Thayer Award Dinner at Washington Hall.

“I cannot tell you how deeply honored and grateful I am for being the recipient of the Thayer Award and having the privilege to review your parade today,” Albright said, “when I could barely keep from crying as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played and as you proudly represented our country—and always will.”

Albright became the 56th recipient of the Thayer Award and only the fourth female to receive the medallion from the West Point Association of Graduates since 1958.

On the day following the end of the government shutdown, Albright spoke of national unity and the debt owed to the nation’s armed forces and veterans.

“It seems to me that, if we are to protect the security and prosperity of our country, we should put an end to partisan squabbling, do a little bit of arithmetic and develop a unified and lasting approach to the federal budget,” she said. “I came today from Washington and after reviewing your amazing parade I feel like saying, when I get back, to those in our Capitol, these young men and women deserve better.” To that end, Albright suggested that investing in the education of America’s youth and fortifying the nation’s armed forces with the best training, equipment and leadership is essential.  

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meets with the brigade staff following the Corps of Cadets Review on the Plain Oct. 17.
Retired Col. Bob McClure, West Point Association of Graduates chief executive officer, and U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., presents the Sylvanus Thayer Award medallion to the Honorable Madeleine Albright Oct. 17 inside Washington Hall during a dinner in her honor.

“Here at West Point, cadets are taught about engineering and mathematics, history and science, but above all, you learn about the qualities demanded of a leader,” she said. “So I suspect that I do not have to tell you that American leadership is still needed in the world today.”

Whether as secretary of state or United Nations ambassador, Albright said she seized every opportunity to visit with military members throughout her travels. She was impressed by their enthusiasm, commitment and especially their candor.

“After all, just because someone is in the Army doesn’t mean they’re too shy to speak up,” Albright said.

What troops conveyed to her at that time was a concern that their mission was misunderstood back home. She emphasized a need to resist isolation which will tempt a war-weary nation.

“Past lessons inform us that we cannot allow our country to become tired; we can’t turn our backs on our responsibilities; we can’t pretend that we are not the United States,” she said.

U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., said that throughout her career in public service, Albright had answered the call of duty by always providing relevant leadership and diplomacy.

“Unequivocally, Secretary Albright has dedicated herself to our nation, and truly epitomizes the principles of ‘Duty, Honor, Country,’” Caslen said. “Secretary Albright’s sense of duty illuminates her entire career, whether providing critical leadership within the United Nations Security Council at a crucial time in our nation’s history or serving as our nation’s first female secretary of state in an era when women were pioneers entering for the first time in senior international leadership positions.”