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Madeleine Korbel Albright

Madeleine Korbel Albright

A professor and foreign policy expert, Madeleine Korbel Albright (born 1937) was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1992 to be the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and head of the U.S. delegation to that body. President Clinton was also responsible for her appointment as the Secretary of State in 1997.

In filling the sensitive diplomatic post of ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.), President Clinton turned to a prominent Washington insider with an extensive background in academia together with strong political connections. Rewarding Madeleine Albright for her support of Democratic Party candidates and making her the second woman to serve as chief of mission at the United Nations, he also signaled the weight to be assigned to international frameworks in American foreign policy by making her a member of his cabinet.

Madeleine Korbel Albright was born on May 15, 1937, in Prague, the daughter of a Czech diplomat. At the age of 11 she came to the United States, joining her father, Josef Korbel, who was on an official assignment for his country at the U.N. but who then used the opportunity to seek political asylum in the United States for himself and his family.

Becoming a naturalized citizen, Albright pursued an academic career, starting with a B.A. from Wellesley College (1959). Pursuing graduate work at Columbia University, she received a master's degree in international affairs (1968), specializing in Soviet studies, and her Ph.D. in 1976.

Albright's subsequent career record highlights a combination of scholarly research and political activity. She was a coordinator for the unsuccessful presidential candidacy of Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine in 1976, later becoming his chief legislative assistant. In 1978 Albright was asked by one of her former professors at Columbia University, Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser under President Carter, to join the National Security Council staff as a legislative liaison, where she remained until 1981. The following year was spent writing a book about the role of the press in bringing about political change in Poland in the period 1980 to 1982, a project conducted under a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institute.

Albright's next important career milestone came in 1982, when she joined the faculty of Georgetown University and expanded both her interests and personal contacts. As a research professor of international affairs and director of women students enrolled in the foreign service program at the university's School of Foreign Service, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in international studies, U.S. foreign relations, Russian foreign policy, and central and eastern European politics. She was also instrumental in developing programs designed to enhance professional opportunities for women in international affairs. She also became affiliated with the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies as a senior fellow in Soviet and eastern European affairs. In October of 1989 she took over the presidency of the Center for National Policy, a Washington-based nonprofit research organization formed in 1981 as a Democratic think tank with a mandate to generate discussion and study about domestic and international issues. Having been divorced, she did all this while over the years raising three daughters by herself, and still found the time to be a board member on numerous institutes, national commissions, and civic organizations ranging from the Atlantic Institute, the Boards of Trustees of Wellesley College and of Williams College, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs to the Black Student Fund and the Washington Urban League.

Parallel with her research and teaching, Albright deepened her involvement in Democratic Party politics. She acted as an adviser to both Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro during the 1984 presidential election year; and as an adviser to Michael S. Dukakis in 1988 when he failed in his bid to defeat Republican George Bush. She was more successful, however, in 1992, when she endorsed Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton's candidacy. During the campaign she served as his senior foreign policy adviser, and in the transition period as foreign policy liaison in the White House prior to her U.N. posting.

Based clearly on the strength of her personal views and familiarity with world politics, Ambassador Albright immediately became a presence to be reckoned with at the United Nations, especially since she also represented the world's most powerful country and largest contributor to the organization's activities and budget.

Already during the first year it became evident that she saw herself as a spokesperson to three different audiences: first, to the delegations assembled in debate at the New York headquarters, articulating the American position and preferences on global problems dominating the world organization's agenda; second, to President Clinton and his administration, formulating the stand of the U.S. government on U.N.-related topics; and third, to the American public, mobilizing support for policies pursued at, and through, the United Nations. Consequently, Madeleine Albright found herself involved simultaneously in political debate, maneuvering, and consultation in the U.N. arena over such controversial questions as peace-keeping, expanding the Security Council's membership to include possibly both Germany and Japan, and clarifying the precise authority and powers of Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali; in the U.S. policymaking process in Washington; and in the ongoing national debate over the direction of American foreign relations in the 1990s.

Madeleine Albright was nominated by President Clinton in 1996 for the position of Secretary of State. In 1997 the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination. This appointment made Albright the first female to hold the position of Secretary of State. This designation also bestows her with the title of highest-ranking female within the United States government.

Shortly after her confirmation, Albright's Czech cousin revealed to reporters at the Washington Post that Albright's family were Czech Jews and not Catholics as she believed, and that three of her grandparents had perished in concentration camps. Albright stated that she was not totally surprised by the news and was quoted in Newsweek as saying, "I have been proud of the heritage that I have known about and I will be equally proud of the heritage that I have just been given." A few months later, Albright flew to Prague, toured the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Pinkas Synagogue, and was honored by the Czech president.

Meanwhile, in her diplomatic duties, she continued to play hardball. She made efforts to charm North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She interrupted her world travels to tour his home state, speak at his alma mater, and give him a t-shirt inscribed with "Somebody at the State Department Loves Me." Her efforts paid off as Helms was persuaded to work on a measure where the U.S. would repay funds owed to the U.N.

Albright began a peace mission in the Middle East in the fall of 1997, first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September to discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations. At a joint news conference, there appeared to be a wide gap between the goals of the Clinton administration and the Israeli government. Although Albright condemned terrorist activities, she also urged Netanyahu to make concessions. While in Jerusalem, she also visited the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial.

She then conferred with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat before addressing Jewish and Arab students in Jerusalem, and met with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and King Hussein of Jordan. Albright vowed not to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders again until they were "ready to make the hard decisions."

Further Reading

Madeleine Albright's views on foreign policy can be found in her writings, which include Poland, the Role of the Press in Political Change (1983); The Role of the Press in Political Change: Czechoslovakia 1968 (1976); and The Soviet Diplomatic Service: Profile of an Elite (1968). Information regarding her appointment as Secretary of State may be viewed at http://secretary.state.gov. Also see Time, July 28, 1997; August 4, 1997; September 15, 1997; Newsweek, February 24, 1997;September 15, 1997; U.S. News & World Report, September 1, 1997; September 22, 1997. □

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Albright, Madeleine

Madeleine Albright

Born: May 15, 1937
Prague, Czechoslovakia

Czech-born American businessperson, speaker, and secretary of state

On January 23, 1997, when Madeleine Albright was sworn in as the United States secretary of state, she became the first woman to hold this position. Albright's impressive career highlights a combination of scholarly research and political activity.

Family background and education

Madeleine Korbel Albright was born Marie Jana Korbel on May 15, 1937, in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now in the Czech Republic). Her grandmother gave her the nickname "Madeleine" when she was young, and her name was legally changed when she was an adolescent. Her father, Josef Korbel, was a member of the Czechoslovakian diplomatic service (a person who deals with international relations). Her mother, Anna, was a homemaker. Between 1937 and 1948 her family lived in Prague, Czechoslovakia; Belgrade, Yugoslavia; and London, England.

In 1948, while working for the United Nations, Madeleine's father lived in India while the rest of the family lived in New York. When the Communists overthrew the Czechoslovakian government, her father was sentenced to death. Madeleine was eleven years old when her family was given political asylum, or a safe place to live, in the United States. Albright was strongly influenced by her father and credits his influence for her own view of the world.

After becoming a U.S. citizen, Albright pursued an academic career. Her education reflects her interest in politics. She studied political science at Wellesley College and graduated in 1959. Albright then went on to earn advanced degrees in international affairs from the Department of Public Law and Government at Columbia University.

Albright married Joseph Medill Patterson Albright three days after graduating from Wellesley. She and her husband lived in Chicago, Illinois, and Long Island, New York, before moving to Washington, D.C. She and her husband had three daughters before they divorced.

Early political career

Albright began her political career by working for the unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1976 of Senator Edmund S. Muskie (19141996). She then served as Senator Muskie's chief legislative assistant from 1976 to 1978.

In 1978 Albright was asked by one of her former professors at Columbia University, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928), National Security Adviser under President Jimmy Carter (1924), to be a legislative liaison for the National Security Council. She remained in this position until 1981. Albright spent the following year writing Poland, the Role of the Press in Political Change, about the role played by the press during a time of unusual political change in Poland during the 1980s.

Albright's next important career milestone came in 1982, when she joined the faculty of Georgetown University. At George-town she became a research professor of international affairs and the director of women students enrolled at the university's School of Foreign Service.

Albright became advisor to presidential candidate Walter Mondale (1928) and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro (1935), during their 1984 presidential race. She was senior policy advisor to Michael S. Dukakis (1933) during his 1988 presidential campaign. In 1989, Albright became president of the Center for National Policy, a nonprofit research organization. Over the next few years she was appointed to the boards of several institutions, including Wellesley College, the Black Student Fund, and the Washington Urban League.

Ambassador to the United Nations

When Bill Clinton (1946) sought the presidential nomination in 1992, Albright supported him. She served as his senior foreign policy advisor during his campaign. In the transition period she served as foreign policy liaison, or the person who is responsible for communicating information about foreign policy, in the White House. Then, Clinton chose Albright to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN).

Albright immediately became a major force at the UN. She was familiar with world politics and she represented the United States, the UN's largest contributor to its activities and budget. As a UN ambassador, Albright learned to balance the needs of three different groups: the Clinton administration, the UN delegates, and the American public. She was involved in debates over UN peacekeeping activities and the direction of American foreign policy.

First woman to serve as Secretary of State

In 1996 Clinton nominated Albright for secretary of state and the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination. On January 23, 1997, Madeleine Albright was sworn in as secretary of state. She became the highest-ranking female within the United States government.

Shortly after her confirmation, Albright's cousin, Dasha Sima, revealed to reporters at the Washington Post that Albright's family had been Czechoslovakian Jews, not Catholics as she had believed, and that three of her grandparents had died in concentration camps. Before World War II (193945) the Nazi government in Germany had set up concentration camps to hold people who they saw as enemies of the state. Eventually minority groups, including Jews, were forced into these camps, where many people died during the course of the war. (Albright was quoted in Newsweek as saying, "I have been proud of the heritage that I have known about and I will be equally proud of the heritage that I have just been given." A few months later, Albright flew to Prague and was honored by Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel (1936).

Albright began a peace mission in the Middle East in the fall of 1997, first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1949), then with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat (1929), Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (19302000), Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak (1928), King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia (1922), and King Hussein of Jordan (19351999). Albright condemned terrorist activities, urged Netanyahu to make some concessions to the Palestinians, and then vowed not to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders again until they were "ready to make the hard decisions." In July 2000 Albright returned to the Middle East. This time, talks between the new Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1942) and Arafat ended when Barak said he was taking time out from the peace process.

Albright made history with her October 23, 2000, visit to North Korea's leader Kim Jong II (1941). She became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit North Korea.

Another career

After Albright's term as secretary of state ended in January 2001, she became chairman of the board for the National Democratic Institute. Albright is also a well-known public speaker. According to the Washington Speakers Bureau, "Madeleine Albright speaks with humor, insight, and eloquence about her life and career she provides audiences with a unique, no-holds-barred account of service at the highest levels of the American government."

In spring 2001 Albright became the Michael and Virginia Mortara Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy. In a comment about her new teaching position Albright said, "I am very pleased to have the opportunity to teach, and be inspired by, inquiring students."

For More Information

Blackman, Ann. Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright. New York, NY: Scribner, 1998.

Dobbs, Michael. Madeleine Albright: A Twentieth-Century Odyssey. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1999.

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Albright, Madeleine Korbel

ALBRIGHT, MADELEINE KORBEL

Madeleine Korbel Albright served from 1997 to 2001 as U.S. secretary of state, the government's highest-ranking foreign relations officer. She has the distinction of being the first woman to serve in this position. Albright, who has also taught international affairs, has had a long association with democratic party presidential candidates, advising them on foreign policy.

Albright was born on May 15, 1937, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the daughter of a Czech diplomat. In 1939 her family left Czechoslovakia for London, arriving shortly before the outbreak of world war ii. After the war ended in 1945, the family returned to their homeland but left again in 1948 following the Communist takeover of the Czech government. The family settled in the United States in 1949.

Albright earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Wellesley College in 1959 and then studied at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She then entered the graduate program at Columbia University, receiving her master's degree and doctorate from the university's Department of Public Law and Government. While working on her advanced degrees, Albright served in the diplomatic corps, acting as counselor for economic affairs at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from 1969 to 1972. She also worked for the export-import bank.

After receiving her doctorate in 1976, Albright joined the staff of Democratic Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, serving as his chief legislative assistant until 1978. She became a staff member of the national security council in 1978, serving President jimmy carter until he left office in 1981.

Albright shifted her focus in 1981 to academia. She was awarded a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian (1981-82), following an international competition in which she wrote about the role the press played in the political changes that occurred in Poland during the early 1980s. Her findings were published in Poland, the Role of the Press in Political Change (1983). Albright 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. From 1982 to 1993, Albright taught at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, lecturing on international affairs, U.S. foreign policy, Russian foreign policy, and Central and Eastern European politics. She was also responsible for developing and implementing programs designed to enhance women's professional opportunities in international affairs. From 1989 to 1993, Albright was president of the Center for National Policy, a nonprofit research organization formed in 1981 by representatives from government, industry, labor, and education to promote the study and discussion of domestic and international issues.

Albright began working with Democratic presidential candidates in 1984 when she advised Walter F. Mondale on foreign policy. She served in a similar role for 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis and did the same for bill clinton in 1992. After he was elected president, Clinton named Albright chief U.S. representative to the united nations, a cabinet-level position.

After President Clinton was reelected in 1996, he made changes in his cabinet. In December 1996 Clinton nominated Albright as secretary of state. After being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she was sworn in as secretary of state on January 23, 1997.

"We understand that true democracy is never achieved; it is always a pursuit. And we know that if we who love liberty grow weary, those who love only power will one day sweep us away."
—Madeleine Albright

The outspoken and dynamic Albright reinforced U.S. alliances, promoted American trade and business, and sought to establish international standards on trade and human rights. Albright advocated for the expansion and modernization of NATO and helped coordinate NATO's successful campaign to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. She helped to promote

peace in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and the Balkans.

Albright sought the expansion of democracy in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America; she traveled to China to promote trade with the United States and also to address human rights issues. In June 2000 Albright and representatives from all over the world convened the first ever Conference of the Community of Democracies. Albright also led the fight to reverse a decade-long drop in funding for U.S. embassies and overseas operations by helping to persuade Congress to increase funding by 17 percent.

In May 2001, Albright returned to Georgetown University where she accepted an endowed chair in the School of Foreign Service. She lectures at colleges and universities and has appeared on numerous television news commentary programs since leaving the state department.

further readings

Albright, Madeleine. 2003. Madam Secretary: A Memoir. New York: Miramax.

Georgetown University. Available online at <www.georgetown.edu> (accessed May 29, 2003).

Hirsh, Michael. 2000. "The Lioness in Winter." Newsweek (July 10).

Lippman, Thomas W. 2000. Madeleine Albright and the New American Diplomacy. New York: Westview.

Special Libraries Association. Available online at <www.sla.org> (accessed May 29, 2003).

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Albright, Madeleine

Madeleine Albright, 1937–, American government official, b. Prague, Czechoslovakia, as Maria Jana Körbel. Her family emigrated to the United States in 1948, and she attended Wellesley College (B.A., 1959) and Columbia Univ. (M.A., 1968; Ph.D., 1976). A lifelong Democrat, she was chief legislative assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie (1976–78) and served on the staff of the National Security Council and the White House (1978–81). When the Democrats lost the White House, Albright became a professor of international affairs at Georgetown Univ. (1982–93); her Washington, D.C., home was an informal meeting place for prominent Democrats and international leaders. Albright was an adviser to Bill Clinton (1992), and the newly elected president appointed her U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1993. A forceful promoter of American interests, she encouraged increased U.S. participation in the United Nations, often in military actions. In 1997, President Clinton named her secretary of state; serving during his second term, she was the first woman to hold the post. Upholding the administration's "assertive multilateralism," Albright was a strong supporter of an expanded NATO and an advocate of an active U.S. foreign policy, including the use of U.S. forces to protect American interests and prevent genocide in foreign countries.

See her memoir, Madam Secretary (2003); biographies by A. Blackman (1998) and M. Dobbs (1999).

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Albright, Madeleine Korbel

Albright, Madeleine Korbel (1937– ) US stateswoman, secretary of state (1997–2000), b. Czechoslovakia. Following Bill Clinton's re-election (1996), Albright became the first woman to hold the office of secretary of state. She was a hawkish advocate of US military involvement in the Gulf War and the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The politics of the Middle East consumed much of her time.

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