The first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Korbel Albright, was born in 1937 in Czechoslovakia. She was born to Jewish parents; Josef Korbel, a Czech diplomat and Anna, his wife. She is the first child out of three.
In 1939, her family escaped the Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia. When she came to the United States and settled in Colorado, she was an 11 year old girl.
In the States, she pursued her academic career while becoming a naturalized citizen. She finished her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wellesley College in 1959. She received her Master’s degree in 1968 and doctorate degree in Public Law and Government from Columbia University in 1976.
In 1978, as her former professor Zbigniew Brzezinski became the National Security Advisor, he recruited her as the National Security Council’s congressional liaison. This opportunity allowed her to establish herself as an expert in Foreign Affairs. She remained there until 1981, when she started writing a book about the role of the press in influencing political change in Poland from 1980 to 1982.
In 1982, she worked for Georgetown University as a research professor of international affairs and director of women students in the University’s School of Foreign Service. She also joined the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies as a senior fellow in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs.
In 1981, she became a president for the Center for National Policy, a nonprofit research organization serving as a Democratic think tank. Although, Albright was raising her three daughters by herself after her divorce, she was a board member on numerous institutes, including national commissions, civic organizations, and the National Democratic institute for International Affairs.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Albright the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and then in late 1996, she was chosen by President Clinton for the position of Secretary of State. She was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1997 and became the first female Secretary of State. Albright served the Clinton administration throughout his second term.
In 1997, she flew to the Middle East to meet with Israeli Prime Mister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the relation between Israel and Palestine. Her trip to the Middle East was a great start for a peace mission and provided significant opportunity in finding a wide gap between the missions of the Clinton administration and the Israeli government. With Netanyahu’s meeting, she aggressively condemned the activities of terrorists, but she also led Natanyahu to recognize Palestinian problems and make concessions.
In 2000, she made history again as she visited North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il to lay the groundwork for Clinton’s possible next visit. She was the first United States Secretary of State and highest U.S. official thus far, to visit North Korea. In 2001, when George Bush took over the presidency, Albright went back to Georgetown University to serve as a professor.
Yoon Joung Lee