Flashback Friday – Madeleine Albright
So far on Flashback Friday there have been two types of people featured, Presidents and Prime Ministers. This week we are branching out, to include other important people that have held government positions. Madeleine Albright has the distinction of serving as the first female Secretary of State during the Clinton administration. Albright is a well respected individual in Washington, and undoubtedly opened the door for subsequent female Secretary of States that followed her (Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, in case you are wondering). As such, today’s post is dedicated to Ms. Albright.
Albright was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937. Her family was forced to leave that country twice, first to flee from the Nazis. After WWII the family returned, only to later flee from the Communists. Years later, Albright learned that she lost many relatives as a result of the Holocaust. Albright spent her teenage years in the United States. Upon graduation from high school, she attended college, receiving a degree in political science. During this time, she married and started a family. Her husband’s work forced the family to move periodically, but she found time to study at both John Hopkin’s University and Columbia. By the time she had finished all her education she had both an M.A. and PhD.
Her studies had always related to politics and international relations. Her family’s past in Czechoslovakia had peaked her interest in the study of how people and countries interact. Since her early college days, Albright had been involved in various Democratic organizations. In 1972 her biggest opportunity presented itself when she was asked to assist with the presidential campaign of Edmund Muskie. Muskie did not win the nomination in 1972, but Albright continued to work for him. In 1976, Albright began working with her old college professor, who had been named National Security Advisor by President Jimmy Carter. Albright was slowly working her way up the ladder, gaining more influence with each new position.
When the Democrats were swept from office in 1980, Albright went back to Europe to do some research, before returning to Georgetown University in 1982 as a professor. During this period she was still very active with the Democratic party, and had become one of its top international advisors. When the Democrats took back the White House in 1992, Albright was rightly rewarded. She was part of Bill Clinton’s transition team, and was then named the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She served in this position from 1993 to 1997 and was unafraid of holding back her true thoughts. Then following Clinton’s reelection in 1996, Albright was handed her most esteemed portfolio to date.
She was selected as the 64th Secretary of State in 1997. Her selection was important, as no woman had held the position before her. Generally, the Secretary of State is in the line of succession to the presidency, however since Albright was not a natural born American citizen, she was excluded from this. Regardless, she was arguably the most influential woman in the country at that time. While Secretary of State, Albright attempted to pursue bipartisan approaches to peace. She held firm against Saddam Hussein and the alleged weapons of mass destruction that Iraq possessed. She also highlighted issues in Hong Kong and North Korea.
Since the end of the Clinton administration, Albright has remained very active in both Democratic politics and the business world. She founded the Albright Group, which provides international consulting to companies. She has also provided advice to Presidents Bush and Obama on foreign policy and she serves on numerous councils and boards.
Albright’s selection as Secretary of State was the first of many ‘firsts’ for the position. She was the first female, followed by Colin Powell, who was the first African-American, followed by Condoleezza Rice, who was the first female African-American. She is very well respected in Washington for her expertise and experience. There is no doubt that she is one of the most knowledgeable people with regards to foreign policy and international relations. Albright has stated that she is proud of her European heritage and it has helped to make her the person she is today. She definitely deserves all the success she has to date.