Madeline Albright: 4’ 10” of Powerful Determination

Madeline Albright: 4’ 10” of Powerful Determination

Madeleine Albright was the first senior U.S. official to meet Vladimir Putin in 2000, in his new capacity as acting president of Russia. Her notes describe her impressions: “Putin is small and pale,” “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” The first female Secretary of State and the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government at the time of her appointment died of cancer, surrounded by family and friends, on March 23rd, age 84.

Her parents, Josef and Anna Korbelová, first fled Adolf Hitler’s Nazis and later Joseph Stalin’s Communists in Czechoslovakia and arrived with 11-year-old Marie Jana and her siblings at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on November 11th, 1948. While Albright long believed the family had fled for political reasons, she learned as an adult that her family was Jewish and that three of her grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps.

Albright Americanized her name to Madeleine and became a U.S. citizen in 1957. She earned a MA and a PH.D. from Columbia University, and married Josef Albright with whom she had 3 children.

In 1993, Clinton appointed her ambassador to the United Nations. She earned a reputation as a passionate pragmatist and straight-talking defender of American interests. Three years later, her nomination as the first female U.S. Secretary of State in the history of the United States was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. She was sworn in on January 23, 1997.

President Barack Obama honored Albright when he presented her with the Medal of Freedom in 2012, “Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world.” Just one month before her death, she spoke out on the impending Russian invasion of Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin would be making a “historic mistake” by invading Ukraine.

Her quotes are famous and pertinent: “I think that we all know what evil is. We have a sense of what’s evil, and certainly killing innocent people is evil. We’re less sure about what is good. There’s sort of good, good enough, could be better–but absolute good is a little harder to define.”

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