Albright, Madeleine Korbel 1937-

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Albright, Madeleine Korbel 1937-
(Maria Jana Korbel)


Born Maria Jana Korbel, May 15, 1937, in Prague, Czechoslovakia; immigrated to the United States, 1948, naturalized citizen; daughter of Josef (a diplomat) and Anna Korbel; married Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, June 11, 1959 (divorced, 1983); children: Anne Korbel, Alice Patterson, Katharine Medill. Education: Wellesley College, B.A. (with honors), 1959; Columbia University, M.A., 1968, Russian Institute certificate, 1968, Ph.D., 1976; studied at School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, knitting, going to the movies.


Home—Washington, DC. Office—The Albright Group, LLC, 901 15th St. NW, Ste. 1000, Washington, DC 20005.


Rolla Daily News, Rolla, MO, journalist; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, journalist; chief legislative assistant to Senator Edmund S. Muskie, 1976-78; under President Jimmy Carter, legislative liaison for National Security Council and member of White House staff, 1978-81; Georgetown University, Washington, DC, research professor of international affairs and director of Women in Foreign Service program, 1982-93, Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy; presidential campaign advisor to Walter Mondale, 1984; National Democratic Institute for Strategic and International Affairs, Washington, DC, 1984—, became chairperson; presidential campaign advisor to Michael Dukakis, 1988; Center for National Policy, president, 1989-92; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-97; under President William Jefferson Clinton, cabinet member and National Security Council member, beginning 1993, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001. Writer. William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan Business School, first distinguished scholar; member of the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange.


Senior fellow in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1981; fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Smithsonian Institute, 1981-82, for Poland: The Role of the Press in Political Change; inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, 1998.



Focus on the Issues: Europe, U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC), 1999.

Focus on the Issues: Africa, U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC), 1999.

Focus on the Issues: Asia and the Pacific, U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC), 1999.

Focus on the Issues: Strengthening Civil Society and the Rule of Law, U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC), 2000.

Focus on the Issues: Building Peace and Security around the World, U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC), 2000.


Poland: The Role of the Press in Political Change, foreword by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Praeger (New York, NY), 1983.

(With Bill Woodward) Madam Secretary: A Memoir, Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Vin Weber and Steven A. Cook) In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How, Council on Foreign Relations Press (New York, NY), 2005.

The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, introduction by Bill Clinton, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.


Madam Secretary was adapted for audio cassette, read by the author, Hyperion Audiobooks, 2003.


In 1997 Madeleine Korbel Albright was sworn in as the sixty-fourth secretary of state after unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate, becoming the first woman to hold this position and the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government. While serving in this capacity, she dealt with such tragedies as the attack on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and growing tensions in the Middle East. Albright's life has been devoted to foreign policy, and her achievements include the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. A leader in international relations, she has promoted the positive involvement of the United States in the pursuit of stability and peace worldwide.

Since childhood, Albright was exposed to politics, foreign relations, and diplomacy. The daughter of a Czech diplomat, she had lived in five countries and learned four languages by the time she was eleven. Albright was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1937, and her early life was directly affected by World War II. Her father moved the family to London, England, in 1939, when the Munich Pact put Czechoslovakia under German control. "She watched her world fall apart, and ever since, she has dedicated her life to spreading to the rest of the world the freedom and tolerance her family found here in America," said President Bill Clinton, as quoted in the Washington Post, when he nominated Albright for U.S. secretary of state. After taking that post, Albright learned that her grandparents were Jewish and had been murdered by the Nazis. She told Ed Bradley in a CBS 60 Minutes interview that she had been raised a Catholic and her understanding was that her family evacuated to London for political reasons due to her parents' political activism.

Following the war, the Korbel family returned to Czechoslovakia. They were again forced to flee, this time to the United States, after the rise of the communist regime. Albright and her family were welcomed and given political asylum. Her father became a professor at the University of Denver (years later, Condoleezza Rice, who during the George W. Bush administration replaced Colin Powell as secretary of state, was one of his students), and in 1959 Albright graduated from Wellesley College with honors. Three days later she married Joseph Albright, heir to the Chicago Tribune fortune. Soon after marriage, Albright began her career as a journalist with the Rolla Daily News in Missouri. She then moved with her husband to Chicago, where she was told by one of her husband's editors that she could not work for either his or a competing newspaper. It was then that her interest turned to politics.

While recuperating from the premature births of her twin daughters, Anne and Alice, Albright studied Russian. She is fluent in French and Czech and has a grasp of Polish as well. Another daughter, Katharine, followed the twins, and in the mid-1970s the family moved to Washington, DC. Albright worked on her doctorate, commuting from the capital to Columbia University in New York City. A position as legislative assistant to Senator Edmund S. Muskie in 1976 began her new career in politics and diplomacy. Two years later she became legislative liaison on President Jimmy Carter's National Security Council staff.

Shortly thereafter Albright received a Woodrow Wilson fellowship from the Smithsonian Institute's Wilson Center for Scholars. It was during this period, in 1981 and 1982, that she researched her book Poland: The Role of the Press in Political Change, which discusses the liberalization of Eastern Europe. At about this time, Albright and her husband divorced.

In 1982 Albright became a research professor of international affairs and director of Women in Foreign Service at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. While at Georgetown, she acted as a presidential campaign advisor, first for Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, then for Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentson in 1988. Political critics speculate that if Dukakis had won the election, he would have offered Albright a top position. Instead, after the Republican victory, Albright continued on to become the president of the Center for National Policy, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to the promotion of the study and discussion of domestic and international issues.

In 1992 Albright was chosen by President Bill Clinton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, now a cabinet-level position. Upon accepting the position, Albright was thrust into the beginning of a three-year-long civil war in Bosnia. Many commentators expressed confidence in Albright's ability to handle the situation. In 1996 she was nominated by President Clinton to be secretary of state. Unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Albright became the highest ranking female in the U.S. government and the first female to fill the position. As secretary of state, she received some criticism regarding her apparent willingness to send American troops into foreign conflicts. Addressing this issue, Albright stated in her 60 Minutes interview with Bradley: "Rather than feeling that it is wrong to interfere, I always believed that if you can stop something early, and you can show the support of free countries for those who were under totalitarianism, then it's worth doing. That's my mindset. The ability of America to marry force and diplomacy is something that is very important to the maintenance of our values. I think we have to be very, very selective when we think about using our military, but we can't be afraid to do so."

Of foreign policy in general, Albright summed up her opinions at a 1997 Chamber of Commerce dinner: "The success of American foreign policy is not only relevant to our lives, it will be a determining factor in the quality of our lives. It will make the difference between a future characterized by peace, rising prosperity, and law, and a more uncertain future in which our economy and security are always at risk, our peace of mind is always under assault, and American leadership is increasingly in doubt."

Not all of Albright's time is consumed by national and international affairs. "I have a farm and nobody would ever recognize me on the farm as I play around in my garden bare-footed, and I go to the movies, and I knit. But, there's an awful lot to do," she told Bradley. In the end, though, it is her career and commitment to the core values of democracy that fascinate her.

After leaving public service, Albright formed a consulting group in Washington, DC, and continued to write. She offers considerable insight into her political life in

Madam Secretary: A Memoir, published in 2003. In the book Albright details her service as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations during Clinton's first term and, during his second, as U.S. secretary of state—a post that since the late 1980s has also been filled by James Baker, Warren Christopher, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice. In addition, Albright recounts her experiences with gender discrimination and her need to call on Islamic friends at the United Nations to speak out for her when it was rumored that she would not be able to work with Islamic nations as secretary of state. Madam Secretary also includes accounts of failed diplomacy and the events and evolution of policies in the Middle East.

Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote in Commentary: "Albright's tale contains the ingredients of a powerful memoir. Here, after all, are the great issues not only of the Clinton decade but of our own, for in many respects the international diplomacy conducted during those years helped build the foundations of the exceptionally perilous world in which we now dwell. And Albright tells her story smoothly and for the most part frankly, complete with amusing anecdotes and often insightful apercus."

In The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, coauthored by Bill Woodward, Albright studies the relationship between religion and politics, beginning with the American Revolution. The main topics of the book, however, are the tensions in the Middle East and the increasingly important role of religion in American conservatism. A Kirkus Reviews contributor described this volume as "a valuable primer on foreign-policy challenges that are sure to bedevil the United States for a long time to come."



Albright, Madeleine Korbel, and Bob Woodward, Madam Secretary: A Memoir, Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2003.

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

Blood, Thomas, Madam Secretary: A Biography of Madeleine Albright, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Dobbs, Michael, Madeleine Albright: A Twentieth-Century Odyssey, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1999.

Newsmakers, Thomson Gale (Detroit), 1994, pp. 9-12.


America, June 19, 2006, Gene Roman, review of The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, p. 22.

Book, November-December, 2003, Sean McCann, review of Madam Secretary, p. 82.

Booklist, April 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of The Mighty and the Almighty, p. 4.

Christian Century, June 27, 2006, Kim Lawton, review of The Mighty and the Almighty, p. 14.

Christianity Today, August, 2006, Tony Carnes, interview with Albright, p. 21.

Commentary, January, 2004, Gabriel Schoenfeld, review of Madam Secretary, p. 69.

Commonweal, February 13, 2004, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, review of Madam Secretary, p. 24.

Entertainment Weekly, September 26, 2003, Tina Jordan, review of Madam Secretary, p. 98.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of The Mighty and the Almighty, p. 329.

Library Journal, May 15, 2006, Jenny Emmauel, review of The Mighty and the Almighty, p. 114.

New Statesman, November 17, 2003, Elaine Showalter, review of Madam Secretary, p. 49.

People, October 20, 2003, Neil Graves, review of Madam Secretary, p. 59.

Publishers Weekly, September 15, 2003, review of Madam Secretary, p. 56, and Mick Sussman, "PW Talks with Madeleine Albright: Keeping America Engaged," p. 57; March 27, 2006, review of The Mighty and the Almighty, p. 69; April 17, 2006, F. Sarah Gold, "PW Talks with Madeleine Albright: An Optimist Who Worries," p. 178.

Time, September 22, 2003, J.F.O. McAllister, "10 Questions for Madeleine Albright," p. 8; May 8, 2006, Romesh Ratnesar, "I Asked God for a Lot" (interview), p. 22.

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, March, 2002, B. Joseph White, "Interview: The Business of Peace," p. 697.

Washington Post, December 6, 1996, Michael Dobbs and John M. Goshko, "Albright's Personal Journey Helped Mold Foreign Policy Beliefs," p. A25.


The Albright Group, LLC, Web site, (September 22, 2006)., (October 12, 2006), "Then & Now: Madeleine Albright."

Madam Secretary Web site, (September 22, 2006).

National Women's Hall of Fame Web site, September 22, 2006).

Online Burma/Myanmar Library, (October 13, 2006), "Remarks by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to Chamber of Commerce Dinner, June 8, 1997."

U.S. State Department Web site, (September 22, 2006), biography.


Bradley, Ed, "Interview with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright," 60 Minutes (television news program), CBS, February, 1997.

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Albright, Madeleine Korbel 1937-

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