Remembering Madeleine Albright

Posted by on Mar 30, 2022 in Top Stories, United States

Dr. Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State,  passed away from cancer on March 23, 2022, in Washington, D.C. She was 84 years old. Here, btw reflects on Albright’s incredible life and legacy.

Albright’s Early Life and Early Career

Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelova  in Czechoslovakia in May 1937. She was just a baby when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. Her family managed to escape to England. They later returned home, and her father sent her to Switzerland to continue school. While there, she learned French and decided to change her name from Marie Jana to Madeleine. Soon after, when she was eleven years old, the family left Czechoslovakia  to flee the new Communist regime. They moved to the United States. She later said that she entered public service because she felt she owed a debt for her freedom.

Once in the United States, she continued high school in Denver, Colorado. She founded the international relations club at her high school. After she graduated, she studied political science at Wellesley College. She became a U.S. citizen in 1957 and received her degree in 1959. During the summer, she worked at The Denver Post newspaper, where she met her future husband, Joseph Medill Patterson Albright. He was a wealthy newspaper heir. The couple married in 1959 and raised three daughters. In 1976, she earned a doctoral degree in public law and government at Columbia University.

Developing Her Political Experience

. Dr. Albright first became involved in politics in the 1970s with the Democratic Party. She helped fund raise for Maine’s Senator Ed Muskie. When Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976, Albright was recruited by a former professor to serve under President Carter as a congressional liaison to the National Security Council. In the 1980s, Dr. Albright began teaching Eastern European studies at Georgetown University and continued supporting Democratic political candidates. She was foreign policy adviser to both New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro–the first female presidential candidate from a major party–and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. While working for Governor Dukakis, Dr. Albright met and got to know Bill Clinton. When he became president in 1992, she ran his National Security Council transition team and was named ambassador to the United Nations.

While the U.N. ambassador, Dr. Albright took a firm stance on foreign policy. She insisted that the United States and its allies take a stand against tyrants, dictators, and genocide around the world.

 Making History

President Clinton nominated Dr. Albright as Secretary of State in 1996.She was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 99 to 0. She was the first woman ever to hold this position. As Secretary of State, she continued to insist that the United States use its military might to stop human rights abuses around the world, and to stand up to dangerous regimes. She believed that a stable Europe was essential to the safety of the world, and for this reason, persuaded the U.S. Senate to allow Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO. At the same time, she also used her position to advocate for increasing the number of women in government.

In an interesting twist of fate, a future female secretary of State has more than one connection to Albright. Condoleezza Rice—secretary of State under President George W. Bush—was taught by Albright’s father. Josef Korbel had been a diplomat for Czechoslovakia. But when he brought his family to the United States after World War II, he taught political science at the University of Denver. Rice studied with Korbel during her college career.

A Powerful Legacy

After leaving government in 2001, Secretary Albright returned to teaching at Georgetown and wrote several books. In 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. She is survived by three daughters and six grandchildren.

Dig Deeper Dr. Albright was not  the last woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. In fact, after she left government, the next two out of three secretaries of state were women. Who were they?