Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright is perhaps one of the most influential women in America. She is also a refugee. So, to that end, she definitely has something to say about the idea that America should stop refugees who are fleeing certain death in war-ravaged Syria from coming here.
Albright is perhaps one of the most celebrated Secretaries of State in the history of the republic. She is also the first woman to ever hold the position. However, things did not start out that way for her. Albright had to leave Czechoslovakia because of the Nazi invasion during World War II. They first went to Britain, and then to Prague. However, the rise of communism meant that Albright’s family once again found themselves fleeing their home.
Her personal experience as a refugee has fuelled a scathing condemnation of the right-wing cowards who see threats in innocent women and children. First, she penned a blistering missive in TIME, and spoke out on the matter:
“These proposals are deeply disturbing to me on many levels. I cannot and do not pretend to liken my situation to Syria … But I do know what it’s like to leave your home and travel halfway around the world seeking refuge.”
Albright went on to to express that she believes that the idea of even attempting to ban refugees “is just plain wrong and sends the wrong message.” She went on remind people that the terror attacks in Paris didn’t have a thing to with Syrians, or Syrian refugees seeking a safe place to go:
“[Politicians] are right to focus on how to defeat terrorists. But that focus risks being overtaken by the divisive and counterproductive debate on refugees. … [which runs] contrary to American values, and would do nothing to strengthen our security.”
Ironically, Albright herself just marked 67 years since her family’s arrival on U.S. soil. She expressed her gratitude via twitter:
67 years ago today my family and I arrived in America as refugees. #refugeeswelcome (1/2)
— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) November 11, 2015
Albright also spoke with reporters via telephone about her past as a refugee. She also made sure to point out that it was much easier for her, since her father was a diplomat, to gain acceptance into America.
“When people ask me what is the most important thing that ever happened in my life, it was becoming an American. I always hesitate to mention I was a refugee … I definitely was … I know what it’s like to leave your country and try to make a new life.”
The former Secretary of State also reminded the reporters of the fear and hate of communism during the McCarthyism era, which was during the time when she would have been traveling here as a child, comparing it to the current climate of Islamophobia:
“It was kind of a minor example of what happens when people hyper-inflate something that is not an issue that effects those coming into the country.”
Of course, Albright couldn’t resist taking a shot at Republican presidential “candidate” and ignorant xenophobe Ben Carson, who had the exceptionally poor taste to compare Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs”:
“I find it stunning that there’s a candidate who compared these people to dogs. I can tell you that dogs in America are treated better than some of these refugees, who cross the ocean and drown.”
Well, done, Secretary Albright. We thank her for sharing your story, and for reminding everyone that some of the most important and influential people in the history of America were once refugees, just like the people the far-right are attempting to force America to turn our backs on now. We must be careful when blanked assumptions are made, for we just don’t know who we might be turning away. Our nation has always been a beacon of hope and opportunity to people from all nations; it is absolutely disgusting that these right-wing cravens are willing to disgrace that heritage of welcome to win a couple of points in the polls.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.