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FULTON, Mo. — Madeleine Albright, the nation's first female secretary of state, said in an address Thursday at Westminster College that democracy worldwide "appears to be in retreat."

Albright, who served under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, also unleashed criticism of President Donald Trump, whom she said was helping to dismantle a world order embraced by presidents of both political parties since the end of World War II.

"Because Missouri is the Show-Me State, I feel I must be blunt: Today we have a president who has become a source of comfort to anti-democratic forces across the globe, instead of rebutting and challenging them," Albright said to applause.

Since taking office, Trump has removed the United States from an international agreement to combat climate change, has erected trade barriers in hopes of striking new agreements with other countries, has attempted to improve ties between the United States and Russia, and has favored bilateral agreements instead of multilateral ones.

Albright said, "The president has picked fights with Europe over trade, climate change, Iran and NATO instead of rallying our democratic allies to push back against Russia and compete together against China."

She said Trump was working to "ignore, disparage and dismantle" an established international system of "problem solving and law."

"The president touts a world in which each country is only out for itself," Albright said. "It's a world in which the strong strut, the weak submit and people everywhere may be divided into patriots and subscribers to, and I quote, 'the ideology of globalism' — whatever that means."

Albright said the United States must engage with the world, not isolate itself.

She said U.S. foreign policy today echoes its post-World War I attitude, when many "embraced protectionism, downplayed the rise of fascism, opposed help to the victims of oppression and ultimately endangered our world's security.

"There's hardly a major challenge in the world today that does not require like-minded countries to work together for the benefit of all," Albright said.

Albright said she agreed with former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who delivered his "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton in 1946. She said Churchill spoke of a world in which "markets are open, military clashes are constrained, and those who run roughshod over the rights of others are brought to heel."

She said investing in fledgling democracies will accomplish these goals.

"Dictators may promise order, yet the plagues of violent extremism, civil strife, famine and epidemic disease are more likely to be present where human liberty and accountable leaders are absent," she said.

Albright, 82, was born in the former Czechoslovakia. Her father was a Czech diplomat. Her family fled to Britain during Nazi Germany's occupation of the country. Her family came to the United States in 1948.

After college, she worked as a journalist at the Rolla Daily News while her husband was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

Albright is chairwoman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. She resides in Washington.

The address, part of the Westminster College’s John Findley Green lecture series, carries prominence. Historians say Churchill's speech was prescient in predicting the Cold War.

Other speakers through the decades have included former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former President Gerald Ford and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., after receiving criticism during his 2016 presidential campaign that he had little experience with foreign policy, delivered the lecture in 2017.

Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6184

@JackSuntrup on Twitter

jsuntrup@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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