As LIMRA’s 2011 Annual Conference began to wind down and people scurried to say good-bye to business associates and grab one last meal before heading back to their respective cities, the auditorium filled once more as Madeline Albright, this year’s keynote speaker, took to the stage.

Secretary Albright, the first woman to become a United States Secretary of State, Professor of International Relations at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and one of the founders of the Albright Stonebridge Group, immediately engaged the audience with an admission that she often consulted with business executives for their valued opinions during her tenure in government.

Secretary Albright went on to draw seamless parallels between diplomacy and the insurance world through their shared dependence on the importance of managing risk. “Success and failure depend on how well we contain damage when we are wrong,” the Secretary said. Through anecdotes about the eccentricities of North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il, and the nimble qualities of Latin American nations when it comes to correcting errors in their nascent democracies, the secretary drew sharp and object contrasts about how to manage risk successfully.

The Secretary went on to laud what she viewed as the necessary partnership between public institutions and private enterprise. Although she was careful to note that there must be clear-cut separation between the two in order to avoid moral compromise, she professed what she believed was a crucial interdependence and expressed hope that the correct amount of cooperation would help propel both the country and the world forward.

The biggest risk that troubles the Secretary is the potential loss of influence pertaining to the U.S. and its global partners. She stated that she has a strong fear of “American values being pushed aside” on the global stage. “Democracy is still the number one form of government and while you cannot insure against all risk, you can help others adapt,” she said.