Madeleine Albright biography
Madeleine Albright was born in 1937 in Prague. As a child, she left Prague with her family to the United States. After studying at Wellesley College and Columbia University, Albright entered politics under the influence of an old professor. In 1993, Albright became a U.S. representative of the United Nations, and three years later she was appointed as the United States secretary of the state, the first ever female to hold the position, under the Clinton administration. She held the distinguished position for several years before leaving in 2001 to pursue other projects.
Born in Prague on May 15, 1937, Madeleine Albright made history 60 years later when she became the first woman to serve as the secretary of state for the United States. She grew up learning about world affairs from her father Josef Korbel. He was a diplomat for much of her early life.
When she was only a toddler, Albright and her family fled their native Czechoslovakia because the country was first invaded by the Nazis. She later learned that three of her grandparents died during the Holocaust. She was raised Catholic, but her parents had converted to the Christian faith from Judaism.
The Korbels left the country for good ten years later after the communists took power. The family settled in Colorado where her father became a distinguished professor at the University of Denver. One of his favorite students was another future secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
A bright student, Albright earned a scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. There she edited the school's newspaper and pursued her passion for politics. During one summer, Albright landed an internship at the Denver Post. She soon fell for a fellow intern, Joseph Albright, a publishing heir. The couple married in 1959.
While her husband worked as a journalist, Albright stayed home to raise the couple's three daughters. She also continued her education, waking up at 4:30 am to work on her graduate studies. Zbigniew Brzezinski was one of her professors at Columbia University where she earned in a certificate in Russian studies in 1968. In 1976, Albright completed her Ph.D. there.
Advisor and Educator
Albright first entered the political arena as a legislative assistant to Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie in 1972. Four years later, she was hired by her former professor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to work for the National Security Council during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. The Democrats fall from power in the early 1980s meant a move to the private sector for Albright. She became a professor at Georgetown University, winning its Teacher of Year Award four times.
Also around this time, Albright and her husband divorced after he left her for another woman. "It was a shock," she later told The Washington Post. She didn't let heartbreak put a damper on her career or her social life. Albright hosted numerous gatherings at her townhouse where the Democratic elite gathered to discuss the issues of the day.
On matters of foreign policy, she became one of her party's leading lights. Albright served as an advisor to Michael Dukakis during his failed 1988 presidential bid.
Leader in World Affairs
President Bill Clinton tapped Albright to handle the country's relationship with the United Nations. In January 1993, she officially took on the role of U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. Albright quickly showed herself to be a force to be reckoned with. During her four years in the position, she became an advocate for "assertive multilateralism." Albright lobbied for the United States to expand its military involvement in the Balkans -- a move that she publicly clashed with Colin Powell over. She also supported U.S. intervention in Haiti. According to The New Republic, she said that "U.S. leadership in world politics and in multilateral organizations is a fundamental tenet of the Clinton Administration."
In December 1996, Clinton once again turned to Albright for her help in foreign matters. He nominated her to be the first female secretary of state. Albright was sworn in the following January and continued to be a straight talker and a problem solver in her new position. During her time as secretary, she worked on a broad range of issues. Albright campaigned for human rights and fought to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. A champion of NATO, she sought to expand the organization's membership. Albright also worked to bring peace to the Middle East.
After leaving her post as secretary of state in 2001, Albright has worked on a number of projects. She has written several books, including Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003) and The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God and World Affairs (2006). Known for her symbolic use of jewelry on the job, Albright also wrote Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box (2009).
With her international expertise, Albright launched a private investment fund in 2007. Albright Capital Management seeks to make long-term investments for its clients in emerging markets. Albright also serves as the co-chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.
Albright has received numerous honors for her contributions to diplomacy, democracy and world affairs. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.