Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks at Robert Frost
Promoting her Book Fascism: A Warning
February 14, 2019
Madeleine Albright is a smart woman. The kind of smart that is palpable. Her brilliance is not the brittle, kettle whistling of opinion and the need for approval. It is the steady pulsing of experience and clear-eyed observation. For me, what started out as curiosity about America’s first female Secretary of State quickly turned into pure fangirl worship. Madeleine Albright is a smart woman and she’s not afraid to show it.
The basis of the evening’s talk was Albright’s book (just released in paperback) Fascism: A Warning, a book that offers the history of fascism and the signs of its ascendance in the modern world. Albright’s knowledge of the topic is extensive and it is always fascinating to hear from individuals who have both the academic’s ear for explanation and definitions – fascism is not an ideology; it is “a process for gaining power and keeping it” - as well as the experience of world events – meeting Vladimir Putin when he first took power in Russia and finding him a relatively outgoing leader, eager to connect with the nations of the world. In her freewheeling dialogue with Larry Wilmore, Albright mused on the differences between Lenin and Stalin (Stalin was much more brutal), the discovery of her Jewish heritage just before her confirmation as Secretary of State and the significance of the decorative pins that she wears. She tells the story of learning that a Russian spy had planted a listening device in a State Department meeting room. The next time she met with the Russians she wore a huge pin in the shape of a bug on her lapel, a message they received loud and clear.
Of course, the elephant in the room (the elephant that seems to be in every room in America and at various government buildings around the world) is the Trump administration. Wilmore asked the question directly: “Do you think that Trump is a fascist?” Albright’s response? “No, although he has fascist tendencies.” She made it clear that the United States was strong enough to weather the storm of ‘two more years of this chaotic administration,” but she didn’t think the country could handle six more years. She describes herself and her feelings on the direction of the country: “I’m an optimist who worries a lot.” Albright’s easy presentation and casual genius is the warm, comforting blanket we can wrap around ourselves as she delivers her potential doomsday message: fascism is on the rise and it is on the rise by the choice of the people. As she correctly pointed out, Hitler and Mussolini were duly elected leaders. Power was not taken by force, it was given by the citizens. And with a few exceptions, that same circumstance is happening all over the globe today.
Larry Wilmore was an excellent mediator, combining his own knowledge of history with some often-hilarious observations and comments as well as deep respect for Albright and the work she has done on behalf of the United States.
Live Talks LA delivered another great evening of insight at the Frost Auditorium. You can check out their calendar at livetalksla.org.