Madeleine Korbel Albright (born May 15, 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia), American diplomat, served as the 64th United States Secretary of State.
She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996 as Secretary of State. After being unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, she was sworn in as the 64th Secretary of State on January 23, 1997. Celebrated as the first female secretary of state and the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government, Albright has also been accused of war crimes by her detractors due to her staunch support for the Iraqi sanctions regime.
Academic and public career
Awarded a B.A. from Wellesley College with honors in Political Science, she studied at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, received a Certificate from the Russian Institute at Columbia University, and her Masters and Doctorate from Columbia University's Department of Public Law and Government.
From 1978 to 1981, Albright was a staff member on the National Security Council, as well as a White House staff member, where she was responsible for foreign policy legislation. From 1976 to 1978, she served as Chief Legislative Assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie.
From 1981 to 1982, Secretary Albright was awarded a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution following an international competition in which she wrote about the role of the press in political changes in Poland during the early 1980s.
From 1981 to 1982 she also served as a Senior Fellow in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, conducting research in developments and trends in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
In 1981 she co-founded the Center for National Policy. She also served as President of the organization.
In 1982, Albright was appointed 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 courses in international affairs, U.S. foreign policy, Russian foreign policy, and Central and Eastern European politics, and was responsible for developing and implementing programs designed to enhance women's professional opportunities in international affairs.
Before becoming Secretary of State, Albright served as a member of President Clinton's Cabinet.
Ambassador to the UN
Albright was appointed ambassador to the UN, her first diplomatic post, shortly after Clinton was inaugurated, presenting her credentials on February 6, 1993. During her tenure at the UN, she had a rocky relationship with the UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Boutros-Ghali, a career diplomat who often had disagreements with the US, later described her in his 1999 memoir Unvanquished:
She seemed to have little interest in the difficult diplomatic work of persuading her foreign counterparts to go along with the positions of her government, preferring to lecture or speak in declarative sentences, or simply to read verbatim from her briefing books. She seemed to assume that her mere assertion of a US policy should be sufficient to achieve the support of other nations.
At the end of Boutros-Ghali's five year term in office, Albright and the Clinton administration took the unprecedented step of blocking his reappointment for a second term, as has been customary since the founding of the UN. It made her widely unpopular in the Arab world.
Secretary of State
As Secretary of State, Albright incurred the wrath of many Serbs in the former Yugoslavia because of her role in the Kosovo and Bosnia wars as well US policy in the Balkans per se.
Albright has been widely condemned for remarks she made during on interview on December 5, 1996, for the 60 Minutes television program. On the theme of US sanctions against Iraq, Lesley Stahl asked:
We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it.
In 2000, Secretary Albright became the first western diplomat to meet Kim Jong Il, the reclusive leader of North Korea.
She was born Marie Jana Korbel on May 15, 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Madeleine was a nickname given by her grandmother. She moved to the United States in 1950 and became a citizen in 1957.
In May 1959 she married newspaper journalist Joseph Albright, with whom she had three daughters. They divorced in 1982.
Albright is highly multilingual, being fluent in English, French, and Czech, with good speaking and reading abilities in Russian, German and Polish.
Before and during World War II, her father Josef Korbel and her family sought refuge in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where they had been on a diplomatic mission from Czechoslovakia. That may have saved her life, while many of her numerous Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia were killed in the Holocaust. Albright has stated that she did not know she was Jewish until she was an adult.
After her retirement, Albright published a memoir, Madam Secretary (2003).