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May 05, 2021

Secretary Madeleine Albright urges lawyers to continue rule of law efforts

Madeleine Albright is not a lawyer. But she has a long career of working with lawyers as a former U.S. secretary of state, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and in other positions in international relations and diplomacy.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke during a webinar sponsored by the ABA International Law Section.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke during a webinar sponsored by the ABA International Law Section.

At a unique global program in early May co-sponsored by the American Bar Association International Law Section (ILS), Albright delivered a strong message for lawyers based on her experiences related to international law: Ignore, if not challenge, the chatter that says the rule of law is “for suckers” and does not matter these days.

“My message to you is to ignore the cynics,” she said, emphasizing that democracy, not autocracy, remains the best governmental system in the world. “The rule of law is not for suckers.”

Albright, who served as the first woman U.S. secretary of state during the second term of the Clinton administration, provided keynote remarks in a two-hour ABA panel, which was part of a 24-hour virtual webathon promoting the rule of law, universally recognized as a society’s legal underpinning guaranteeing human rights and creating economic opportunity and development.

The nonstop webathon, “Lawyers Across the Globe and Around the Clock for the Rule of Law: An Unprecedented Rule of Law 24-hour Webathon,” was organized by ILS, the Association Internationale des Jeunes Avocats Human Rights Committee and Union Internationale des Avocats Institute for the Rule of Law. The effort drew contributions from bars across the globe and began May 4 at 10 a.m. EDT and ran through 10 a.m. May 5. It can be viewed at YouTube/rule-of-law webathon.


Prior to the event, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo praised the novel approach to spotlighting the rule of law by saying, “The rule of law is the bedrock of American rights and liberties — in times of calm and unrest alike. This extraordinary presentation by so many lawyers and bar groups across the globe serves as a reminder that all of us in the global law community share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty and pursue justice every day.”

At the ABA program, Albright spoke for about 20 minutes, including taking questions from Refo. The subsequent ABA panel, “Developing Strategies and Programs to Support the Rule of Law,” explained many of the ABA initiatives in the rule of law arena. Refo was joined by Alberto Mora, associate executive director for ABA Global Programs, including the Rule of Law Initiative; Joseph L. Raia, chair, ABA International Law Section; and Michael Pates, director of the ABA Center for Human Rights.

In her remarks, Albright said those who suggest that the choice for America and other countries is between globalism and patriotism are pushing a thesis that is “baloney.” Rather, she said, the two are melded by the rule of law that is “in short, the cornerstone of civilization.”

She also said bar groups, like the ABA, “have a crucial role in linking the government and the public sector with the private sector.”

In opening her remarks, Albright noted that she is surrounded by lawyers in her personal life – her two daughters and their husbands are all lawyers. She even gave a hint of regret for not pursuing law as a career.

“Justice Albright,” she mused, “has a very nice ring to it.”