At the age of 80, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says she doesn’t want to end her life in a bad mood about the United States.
“We have a president that doesn’t respect the institutions, and every hour of the day is proving that he thinks he’s above the law,” said Albright, who served as the Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 — the first woman to hold that office — under President Bill Clinton.
Albright spoke Thursday night at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, promoting her new book, Fascism: A Warning, an examination of the legacy of fascism and its status in the 20th century. She laid out a definition of fascism, touched on the country’s foreign relations with Russia, North Korea and more, and she said she finds it “really depressing in the vastest way” that a recent poll on a CNN show revealed that a majority of respondents believed there is a danger of fascism coming to the United States.
“I’m not calling President Trump a fascist. … The reason that I’m worried is because of the trends, but also that there is a leader who is exacerbating the differences, there’s no question,” she said. “That was very evident during the campaign and is evident every single day, pitting people against each other.”
She also decried Trump’s “direct attacks on the press,” accused him of “thinking that he’s above the law,” said he is “obviously being very negative about the judicial system,” claimed he uses rallies to “exacerbate the issues,” and said he has a “dog whistle for violence.”
“Those kinds of things worry me,” she said, adding that she first voted for president — John F. Kennedy — while living in Chicago in 1960, “and it counted a lot.”
Albright famously wears pins to make diplomatic statements, including the pin of a snake coiled around a branch she wore in 1994 after being called an “unparalleled serpent” by the press in Iraq while she was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. On Thursday, Albright wore a silver pin of the Roman god of messages, Mercury.
She ended her 75 minute speech by pushing the roughly 500 attendees to not just see something and say something, but to do something.
“I’ve never been kind of, you know, an agitator, but the bottom line is, I do think that university communities — the questions were terrific, because they all lead to the question of what we do together,” she said. “And I think we are in a very difficult time.”