Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Despite being ill all last week, I managed to drag myself to see Madeleine Albright last Friday. I'm sure this was to the utter dismay of those seated around me as I sniffed and sneezed through the program. Sorry everyone, but talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity! Secretary Albright's appearance was part of Marian University's Global Studies Speakers Series though she was already in town for an event to celebrate the opening of the Read My Pins exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The director of the Global Studies program, Dr. Pierre Atlas, introduced Secretary Albright. I wasn't aware until then that Madeleine Albright was actually born in Czechoslovakia. She and her family were forced into exile when their country began to fall apart in 1938. They returned to Czechoslovakia following World War II, but were forced to permanently flee the country when the Communists gained power in 1948. They settled in New York and later in Denver, Colorado, where Albright's father was a member of the University of Denver's political science faculty and then dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, which was named for him.
Secretary Albright discussed the importance of being the first female appointed Secretary of State and her thoughts on foreign policy. Dr. Atlas asked her to rate the foreign policy of the current administration. She talked about what faced the Obama administration following George W. Bush's tenure including a large hole to dig out of in terms of foreign relations and finding a way out of Iraq and Afghanistan. She commended the Obama administration for trying to develop better relationships with foreign nations and said she believes Secretary Clinton is doing a great job. Overall, she gave the current administration a B+ in foreign policy.
Secretary Albright also discussed her relationship with Condoleeza Rice, who was trained in international studies by Albright's father. I found it interesting that one man has had a hand in the training of at least two Secretaries of State.
I was especially interested in hearing Secretary Albright talk about her pin collection as I have one myself. She told the audience that the Read My Pins exhibit would not have happened without Saddam Hussein. When Albright was working at the United Nations, an article appeared in an Iraqi newspaper calling her an "unparalleled serpent." In reponse, Albright wore a serpent pin and the press caught on. She thought it was fun so she started choosing her pins based on the topics to be worked on that day. Her collection grew from there. Secretary Albright called it her "spoonful of sugar" with foreign policy.
Throughout the conversation with Dr. Atlas and the audience Q&A, Secretary Albright exhibited a wonderful sense of humor coupled with extreme intelligence and insight. I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to hear her speak. I can't wait to see the Read My Pins exhibit and read the accompanying book.