Today, when immigration has become a contentious topic for many Americans, is a good day to honor one of the many immigrants who have used their knowledge and talents to improve American life. Today Madeleine Albright, who has served the country in many ways for almost half a century is celebrating her birthday.
Madeleine Albright was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on May 15, 1937. She spent her early years in Prague, and during World War II, in exile in London. Her father was a diplomat who moved the family to the United States in 1948 after the communists took over Czechoslovakia. In 1957, Madeleine became a U.S. citizen.
As the daughter of prosperous and well-educated parents, Madeleine Albright had an easier path to education than many other immigrant children, but it was her own hard work that led her to earn a degree from Wellesley College and a PhD from Columbia University. She married, raised three daughters, and worked as a fund raiser. After her family moved to Washington D.C., she became an advisor to Senator Edmund Muskie as well as other Democratic office holders and she also taught at Georgetown University.
When Bill Clinton was elected President, he appointed her to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Later she became the first woman to serve as Secretary of State. She was known for her keen insight into foreign affairs and her ability to negotiate with world leaders. News media paid special attention to the signals she sent by her choice of jewelry. Reporters wrote stories not only about what she said, but about what she wore, because she often signaled her message by her choice of pins.
Her jewelry became so famous that after leaving office at the end of the Clinton Administration, Albright organized an exhibit of her collection of pins and published a book entitled Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box.
In the years since leaving office, Albright has held a variety of posts and worked for several nonprofit organizations. She has also written a series of memoirs chronicling her life from her childhood in Europe through her work on the world stage. Her most recent memoir, Hell and Other Destinations; A 21st Century Memoir was published in 2020. Madeleine Albright is a woman well worth knowing and we are lucky to be able to read her lively accounts of life both inside and outside of government service.
Happy Birthday, Madam Secretary!