Madeleine Medill Albright – First Woman Secretary of State
Madeleine Korbel Albright, the first female United States secretary of state, passed away on March 23, 2022. She was 84.
Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, she immigrated with her family to the United States in 1948. She later received her PhD from Columbia University and wrote a thesis on the Prague Spring.
Born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937, Albright grew up in a Jewish family. Her parents, Joseph Korbel and Anna Spieglova, escaped Nazi occupation in the country, first moving to England and later to America.
She graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 – one of the United States’s most prestigious women’s colleges. She then went on to graduate school at Columbia University in New York City, where she earned a master’s degree (1968) and a Ph.D.
Then, in 1978, she was recruited by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was then serving as National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter. She worked on the National Security Council staff for four years, before returning to the academic faculty of Georgetown University and advising Democratic presidential candidates on foreign policy issues.
During her time as Secretary of State, Albright was an important figure in the United States’s efforts to broker peace in the Middle East. She was a fierce advocate for American interests and promoted an increased role for the United States in UN operations. She was an outspoken critic of Russia’s policies and was a staunch advocate for the rights of women around the world.
Before becoming the first woman to serve as secretary of state, Katherine Medill Albright had a diverse career. She was a fundraiser for Senator Edmund Muskie’s 1972 presidential campaign, served as the chief legislative assistant to Muskie and worked for President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
She also taught at Georgetown University and advised Democratic candidates on foreign policy matters. Following Clinton’s 1992 presidential victory, she helped assemble his National Security Council and became ambassador to the United Nations.
She was also the founder of the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College and chaired the international strategy consulting firm, the Albright Stonebridge Group. She was also the Michael and Virginia Mortara Distinguished Professor in Diplomacy at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. In addition, she was a New York Times bestselling author and the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. She is survived by her daughters Alice, Anne and Katie.
Born Marie Jana Korbel on May 15, 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Albright moved to America when she was only a child. Her parents, Josef and Anna (Spieglova) Korbel, had been diplomats and were refugees from the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, which had been occupied by Germany in World War II.
She graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She became a naturalized United States citizen in 1957 and married newspaperman Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, the grandson of Newsday owner and wife of Harry Frank Guggenheim Alicia Patterson, in 1959.
Her career included a mix of research, teaching and political activity in both the United States and abroad. She served as coordinator for the 1972 presidential campaign of Senator Ed Muskie and worked as his chief legislative assistant in 1976 before joining the National Security Council staff under President Jimmy Carter.
In the 1980s, she began researching the Solidarity movement in Poland and writing a book about the role of the press in that country’s political transition. She endorsed Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s candidacy for president in 1992 and was named his senior foreign policy adviser.
She was a strong proponent of human rights and democracy, and she advocated aggressively for US interests abroad. She was also a fierce opponent of authoritarianism and the use of force on the international stage.
She graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 and earned a PhD from Columbia University in 1975. She wrote her thesis on the Prague Spring, a pro-democracy movement in the former Czechoslovakia.
Albright worked as an aide to Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine before becoming an assistant to the National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in 1977. She later served as the secretary of state for President Jimmy Carter.
She remained active in politics, serving on various committees and as a foreign policy adviser for Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. She was also a professor of practice in diplomacy at Georgetown University and a leader of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was the 64th and first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State.
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