It is a great honour to be asked to give the annual Aspen Institute Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Lecture. Not only is the Institute prestigious, but also Madeleine, as a trailblazer for women who has excelled at the highest level of public service, is a personal heroine of mine.
The first time I met Madeleine was in August 1998 when she visited New Zealand as Secretary of State. It was in my fifth year as Leader of the Opposition. It meant a lot to me at that time that Madeleine made time in her diary to see me. My nine years as Prime Minister only briefly overlapped with Madeleine’s time as Secretary of State, but I have long followed her no nonsense, straight talking style, and her singular contribution to global diplomacy.
It is appropriate therefore that I should begin with a quote from Madeleine – indeed from the closing paragraph of her book, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948, which reads:
“I have spent a lifetime looking for remedies to all manner of life's problems – personal, social, political, global. I am deeply suspicious of those who offer simple solutions and statements of absolute certainty or who claim full possession of the truth. Yet I have grown equally skeptical of those who suggest that all is too nuanced and complex for us to learn any lessons, that there are so many sides to everything that we can pursue knowledge every day of our lives and still know nothing for sure.”