Democracy: A Conversation with Madeleine Albright and Mack McLarty

The fact that the United States has experienced challenges to our democracy can actually help us identify with those who have also, said the former U.S. secretary of state.


  • Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
  • Mack McLarty, former White House Chief of Staff
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas (moderator)

“I hate to say this, but democracy is not in good shape at the moment,” said Madeleine Albright at an AS/COA event on the state of democracy globally and, in particular, the United States’ democracy promotion agenda within the Western Hemisphere. “We are at a time where we need to show how democracy is in fact resilient, that despite some hard times in the last few years that we understand that compromise is not a four-letter word, that it’s important to build coalitions, and that democracy is not a spectator sport.”

The January 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol, Albright added, can serve as a point of identification with other countries that have suffered similar challenges to their democracies. “The fact that we have gone through problems, if you put it on a human scale, it sometimes actually helps if you can identify with those who have also,” said Albright. “You can’t say, ‘Everything we’ve done is perfect, now we’re telling you what to do,’ but instead, ‘We’ve gone through a pretty tough patch ourselves.’”

Humility and empathy will be key as the United States works to rehabilitate its image and leadership in the Western Hemisphere, the two Clinton officials agreed. “We’ve got to develop a sense of confidence but also humility in the way we approach the region, a sense of genuine respect and understanding, and that hopefully will build a level of trust,” said Mack McLarty. “That’s how you move forward and get things done, and that is well within the ability of this administration to really get started in a serious way.”