Madeleine Albright

“A great task has been completed and an even larger one remains.” – Madeleine Albright

Czechoslovakian-born Madeleine Albright immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1948 as a 10-year-old. This much celebrated academician, recognized for her diplomatic insight and foreign relations acumen, served on the National Security Council as well as in the United Nations, and eventually landed a most coveted spot in the Clinton cabinet as our 64th Secretary of State. This was groundbreaking news as Albright became the first woman in the United States to serve in this capacity, being sworn in on January 23, 1997.

Ms. Albright spent much of her early adult years as both teacher and student. During her tenure as a Research Professor of International Affairs and Director of Women in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service she taught undergraduate and graduate classes in international affairs, U.S. foreign policy, and European politics while pursuing her Master’s and later, her PhD. She also used that appointment to enhance opportunities for women in international politics by designing, developing, and implementing courses for them. Ms. Albright was simultaneously achieving greatness as a world leader and teaching other women how to do so as well.

Former Secretary Albright is not only well educated in foreign affairs, but can attribute some of her success to her multi-lingual skills (fluent in French and Czech, conversational in Russian and Polish). She was, perhaps, born to a life in international politics as her father was a Czech diplomat. It has often been said that those early “kitchen table” political discussions served as the foundation for most of Albright’s agendas and ideals.

By the time then-President Clinton nominated Albright for Secretary of State, she had become accustomed to perpetually having to prove that she had earned the right to be there. From the time she and her family fled their homeland to escape pre-war Eastern Europe, to being one of just a handful of Europeans enrolled in private school in Denver, to being a declared Democrat at Republican-leaning Wellesley College, Albright was well acquainted with feeling like she was always on the outside looking in.

But her position in the Clinton administration provided the international stage where she realized her potential. Mirroring the President’s international philosophy by intoning an assertive yet diplomatic response to crises and catastrophes, former Secretary Albright guided that administration through politically charged episodes in Rwanda, Serbia, North Korea, Iraq and Kosovo.

Her newest book, Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership is written as if in confidence to the next leader of the free world. She serves up anecdotes collected after years in diplomatic service moving among the most influential players in global politics. She also levels hearty doses of criticism toward the Bush administration, but she speaks with the voice of a patriot and not that of an armchair quarterback.

It should be noted that former Secretary Albright is also a mother of three daughters, which may be why many people think of Albright as a lifelong diplomat rather than a politician. She was renowned for being able to take complex international issues and boil them down to simple concepts more easily grasped by the masses. This ability to strategically separate the wheat from the chafe was likely enhanced by her command of many languages.

Ms. Albright remains a player on the international stage, not only with the publication of her latest book, but also as principal of The Albright Group, LLC, which provides negotiation and management strategies for multinational organizations.

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