Madeleine Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated with her parents to the United States at age eleven. She first rose to public prominence in 1993 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1997 she was appointed as the nation’s first female Secretary of State by President Bill Clinton. In 2012 she was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama. Now a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University, Albright has remained active as an author, lecturer, and international envoy.
In her Commencement address to UC San Diego graduates Albright stresses the need to build communities, both locally and globally, and the importance of public service – topics on which she is eminently qualified to speak, having spent her adult life as a diplomat and dedicated public servant. As Secretary, Albright was an articulate advocate for democracy, human rights, fair labor practices, environmental protection, and global trade, and in her talk she notes that these core values align precisely with UC San Diego’s institutional philosophy and mission goals.
She urges the assembled students to become actively involved in public life and to assume leadership roles in addressing such serious issues as income inequality, climate change, nuclear proliferation, peace in the Middle East, terrorism, and, of course, immigration reform, noting that in addition to being the first female Secretary of State she is herself an immigrant. Albright emphasizes that the interconnectedness of today’s world heightens the need for thoughtful communal consensus in formulating new strategies and policies, and that UC San Diego graduates are well-disposed to effect those changes.
Watch — UC San Diego All Campus Commencement 2019 with Madeleine Albright
Jewish History scholar Marion Kaplan was a co-editor of the landmark essay collection, “When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany.” Published in 1984, this book established gender studies – heretofore neglected – as a vital component of Holocaust research, exploring the “double jeopardy” experienced in pre-war and wartime Nazi Germany by women who were also Jews.
A central thesis which emerged was the recognition that women experienced fascism differently than their male counterparts and companions, as evidenced by their reactions to pogroms and other anti-Jewish activities undertaken by the Nazi state. Frequently it was women who first and most persistently raised the alarm in their communities about Hitler’s plans for the Jews; the men, especially those in the professional class, were reluctant to forsake their hard-earned status and possessions, trusting instead that the German populace wouldn’t allow extreme ill-treatment of Jews who, in many cases, had lived among them for generations. By contrast women were not established in those professions, and therefore were less motivated by material considerations than by their family’s safety.
In her lecture Professor Kaplan conducts an historical survey of the research leading to, and resulting from, the book’s publication, describing the early workshops that were inspired by the feminist movement and drew together survivors and scholars. These workshops raised critical questions about the lives of German Jewish women in the periods both preceding and following the Nazis’ rise to power, and suggested further avenues of inquiry. In the decades since then, the range of gender perspectives in Holocaust studies have broadened and deepened; for example, they now include the stories of women who “passed” in Nazi Berlin (i.e., hid their Jewishness in order to survive), such as Marie Jalowicz, and of same-sex couples such as Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim, whose story is told in “Aimee and Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin, 1943.” In particular the experiences of Jalowicz and others who, like her, “hid in plain sight” raise complex questions about morality in the face of the harsh sexual politics of survival in wartime Berlin, especially as they pertained to women. Faced with such conditions, what is the ‘moral’ choice?
Kaplan concludes her talk with a discussion of new and promising areas of research, and the synergy between modern women’s studies and Holocaust studies as each seeks to expand its understanding of gender politics in the context of historical trends and imperatives.
Watch — When Biology Became Destiny: How Historians Interpret Gender in the Holocaust – Holocaust Living History Workshop
Women played a huge role in the 2018 midterms. Women voters flipped districts across the country, and female candidates won a record number of congressional seats. So, what does it mean for American politics as a whole moving forward? Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Goldman School of Public Policy professor Sarah Anzia sat down with graduate student Charlotte Hill to examine what happened in 2018, and what might happen in 2020.
The conversation begins with an analysis of what led to the unprecedented wins of 2018. Both Anzia and Granholm point out there was a massive increase in women running as Democrats, but the number of Republican female candidates remained about the same as years past. Granholm argues the increase is evidence women are more motivated than ever before to get involved in politics, from the Women’s March to the voting booth. She suggests the lopsided nature of that motivation is in no small part a reaction to President Trump.
The other major change the panel noticed was women changing the way they campaigned. From ads that show candidates breastfeeding, to addressing sexual assault, professor Anzia says, “women were running as women.” While it may seem like a strange observation, Granholm agrees, saying she was advised not to show her children, and was coached on keeping her voice low when she was running. Granholm calls the new acceptance of women being their authentic selves a gift. She points to millennial representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as examples of women who have cast off restraints historically placed on women in office.
As of now, there are four women officially running for president in 2020. Granholm believes a woman will certainly be on the presidential ticket. But, will we finally see a woman in the White House? Will 2020 be another historic year for women? Only time will tell, but Anzia and Granholm have some predictions.
Watch Women in Politics with Jennifer Granholm, Sarah Anzia, and Charlotte Hill