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Madeleine Albright States Her Case

How has the heritage of former U.S. Secretary of State shaped her global vision?

January 8, 2001

How has the heritage of former U.S. Secretary of State shaped her global vision?

Born in Prague in 1937, Madeleine Albright rose to become the first female U.S. Secretary of State in 1997. Madeleine Korbel, as she was then called, was one year old when she and her family fled from Hitler’s tanks. The family fled a second time in 1948 to avoid the coming wave of communism and settled in Denver, Colorado. Our new Read My Lips feature takes a look back at her tenure as America’s top diplomat, in her words and those of others.

What are the dangers of democracy?

“While democracy in the long run is the most stable form of government, in the short run, it is among the most fragile.” (Speaking to an audience in Poland, June 2000)

How do you view the world?

“My mind-set is Munich. Most of my generation’s is Vietnam.” (Referring to the sellout of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, December 1996)

What are your feelings toward the U.S. military?

“I was a little girl in World War II and I’m used to being freed by Americans.” (On her visit to a Macedonian camp for Kosovo refugees and her own background as a World War II refugee, June 1999)

“I was in Europe and it was at this stage that I fell in love with Americans in uniform. And I continue to have that love affair.” (On her background as a refugee during World War II, June 2000)

What are your feelings on the military action in Kosovo?

“When you see all those faces and all the children reaching out and saying ‘U.S.A., U.S.A.,’ you get reinforcement that this was the right thing to do.” (On visiting refugees from Kosovo in a Macedonian camp, June 1999)

How do human rights relate to U.S. foreign policy?

“The human rights situation in Sudan is not marketable to the American people.” (On the U.S. refusal to get involved in Sudan, May 2000)

What is your view on Asia?

“Our strategic dialogue with China can both protect American interests and uphold our principles, provided we are honest about our differences on human rights and other issues and provided we use a mix of targeted incentives and sanctions to narrow these differences.” (June 1997)

How are relations with Africa?

“They find it pretty hard to understand that we’re going around saying we have the world’s greatest economy, and that we have a huge budget surplus, and they are there digging themselves out of garbage.” (On declining U.S. developmental aid to Africa, October 1999)

How do Africans feel about her?

“You have to give her credit for uniting the world — 184 nations against the United States.” (African diplomat, on U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s leading role in the U.S. opposition to a second term of UN General Secretary Boutros-Ghali, December 1996)

And what do Asians say about her?

“It will take a long time for her to realize that in this part of the world, messages are conveyed and things are done not in black-and-white terms.” (Unidentified senior Southeast Asian diplomat commenting on U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s direct and blunt approach to diplomacy, July 1998)