President Barack Obama on Tuesday at the United Nations challenged the international community to get "serious" about ideals of freedom and democracy.
Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, believes that the effectiveness of these remarks will depend on whether the United States is seen as a force of hope, or a force that divides the world even further.
"People generally tend to see the U.S. in a very positive light," Albright said. "In all the countries that were part of the Arab awakening, there are many many groups of people that are not out on the streets, that actually want to see a different form of government, and see the United States as a friend. So we can't just decide that the people that are out there demonstrating represent everything about how X country feels about us."
Though Albright says she was saddened by the events of the last few weeks, she's not optimistic about the possibility of the United Nations holding a convention on blasphemy.
Having been a part of U.N. drafting processes in the past, she said defining "blasphemy" would prove incredibly difficult for the international community, particularly given how closely guarded freedom of speech is in the United States.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments this week have been outrageous as ever, Albright said, and the situation in Syria looms large as well, perhaps casting a dark shadow over this particular meeting of the General Assembly. But Albright isn't discouraged by the challenges the U.N. is facing.
"I so believe in an international organization, but I think there are questions generally about how an organization that's as large and as diverse, how does it work together?" she said. "The General Assembly is an important moment for the U.N. to prove itself to the international community at large."
She acknowledges the criticisms voiced about the United Nations as an impotent organization, but says that the lack of faith in the effectiveness of the organization is part of a larger loss of faith in institutions — international and domestic alike.
"I have always thought that the General Assembly session is really quite remarkable," Albright said.
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