Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.
Biography of Madeleine Albright, American politician. She was an ambassador to the United Nations and the first woman to be appointed Secretary of State to the United States of America.
Madeleine Albright’s impressive career stands out as a valuable combination of intelligence, academic research, and political activity.
Childhood and education of Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright was born on May 15, 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Legally her name was Marie Jana, but her grandmother gave her the nickname “Madeleine.”
Her father, Josef Korbel, was a Czechoslovakian diplomat.
Her mother, Anna, was a homemaker.
Her parents were Jews who had converted to Catholicism, to escape the persecution that had already started in the countries near Germany.
In 1939, when the Nazis annexed Bohemia, Madeleine’s family fled to London, taking advantage of the fact that her father worked there as a diplomat for the Czechoslovak government in exile.
Madeleine was barely two years old.
The Korbel family was saved from Nazi persecution, but three of Madeleine’s grandparents died in concentration camps.
The family initially lived on Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill. There they had to endure the worst of the German bombings on London.
As soon as possible, they moved to Beaconsfield. Shortly after they settled in Walton-on-Thames, on the outskirts of London.
Period after the defeat of the Nazis
After the defeat of the Nazis, the Korbel family returned to Prague.
Soon after, Madeleine’s father was appointed Czechoslovakian ambassador to Yugoslavia, and the family moved to Belgrade.
Madeleine’s parents feared that their young daughter would be indoctrinated with Marxist ideology in a Yugoslav school.
For this reason, they preferred to hire a governess to teach her at home.
As soon as Madeleine was old enough, she was sent to an Institute for Young Ladies in Chexbres, a town on the shores of Lake Leman in Switzerland.
There she learned to speak French and changed her name from “Marie Jana” to “Madeleine”.
In 1948, the Communist Party, with the support of the Soviet Union, seized the government of Czechoslovakia.
Josef Korbel worked for the United Nations and had been posted to Kashmir, India.
As it was manifest that he was against communism, he was removed from his diplomatic post. Furthermore, he learned that a death sentence awaited him.
Madeleine Albright’s family fled to the USA
Josef Korbel arranged for his family to wait for him in the United States, in New York City.
Madeleine’s family set out from Southampton, on the ship “SS America” on November 5, 1948.
Six days later, on November 11, 1948, they reached Ellis Island in New York Harbor, Madeleine was eleven years old.
Josef Korbel applied for political asylum in the USA, arguing that his life was in danger in Prague.
The Korbels initially settled in Great Neck on Long Island.
With the help of some friends, Mr. Korbel got a job as a professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Denver, Colorado.
He became dean of the “University’s School of International Relations”. In 2008, this School was renamed “Josef Korbel School of International Studies“.
Madeleine Albright’s studies and training
So Madeleine attended the “Kent Denver School” in Cherry Hills Village, a suburb of Denver. She graduated in 1955.
Madeleine went on to college at Wellesley College in Massachusetts on a full scholarship.
In 1957 she received American citizenship.
She majored in political science, graduating in 1959.
Three days after graduation, she married Joseph Albright, nephew of the owner of the newspaper “Newsday.”
At the time of her marriage, Madeleine converted to the Episcopalian religion, she was 22 years old.
Madeleine Albright and her husband in the early years
The Albrights lived in Rolla, Missouri, while Joseph finished his military service at nearby Fort Leonard Wood.
During this time, Madeleine worked at the “Rolla Daily News” newspaper.
In January 1960, the couple moved to Chicago, where Joseph worked as a journalist for the “Chicago Sun-Times“; and Madeleine, as an image editor for the “Encyclopedia Britannica.”
In the following year, Joseph Albright began working at the “Newsday” newspaper in New York. The couple moved to Garden City on Long Island.
Madeleine Albright becomes a mother
That year, in 1961, a very young 24-year-old Madeleine gave birth to her twin daughters, Alice Albright and Anne Albright.
The twins were born prematurely and required a long hospital stay.
Madeleine took advantage of the long postnatal period to learn Russian at Hofstra University in the nearby village of Hempstead.
In 1962, the family moved to Washington, where Madeleine studied Russian and international relations at the “Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies” on the campus of the prestigious “Johns Hopkins University” in Washington.
In 1963, Alicia Patterson, Joseph’s aunt, passed away.
The Albrights returned to Long Island, with the idea that Joseph would take over the family newspaper business.
In 1967, Madeleine gave birth to her third daughter, Katherine Albright.
Again she took advantage of this time of maternal care, to study.
Madeleine Albright continues to enrich her training
In 1968, she enrolled in the “Department of Public Law and Government” at Columbia University.
Thirty years earlier, another great lady had had great influence on American politics: Eleanor Roosevelt.
She wrote her master’s thesis on “The Soviet Diplomatic Corps.”
The subject she chose for her doctoral thesis in relation to “The role of journalists in the Prague spring of 1968“.
At the end of these studies, in 1975, she had a Russian certificate, a master’s degree and a doctorate.
She also followed a postgraduate course taught by Zbigniew Brzezinski, an American political scientist of Polish origin, who later became her boss on the US National Security Council.
Madeleine’s first steps in a political career
In the early 1970s, Madeleine Albright had three daughters and a truly enviable education.
Her wealthy social and economic situation helped her a lot; but it was also the combination of her illustrious intelligence and strong will.
In 1972, she was invited to host a fundraising dinner for Edmund Muskie’s presidential campaign.
Muskie had been a senator from Maine for 13 years and had previously been governor of Maine for 5 years.
Senator Muskie was not elected in 1976, but she hired Madeleine as her chief legislative aide, from 1976 to 1978.
During the Jimmy Carter administration, Zbigniew Brzezinski was appointed National Security Advisor.
Madeleine Albright working in the White House
Knowing Madeleine’s qualities very well, he signed her in 1978 to work in the West Wing of the White House, as a liaison with the United States National Security Council.
After Carter’s 1980 defeat to Ronald Reagan, Madeleine Albright received a grant from the Smithsonian Institution to carry out a research project.
She fixed her place of work at the “Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.”
And she chose to write about dissident journalists involved in the Polish Solidarity movement.
In 1981, Madeleine traveled to Poland to research and interview Solidarity leaders in Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow.
When she returned to Washington, her husband informed her of his intention to divorce her for another woman.
Madeleine Albright was important in her Party
In 1982, she joined the academic staff of Georgetown University in Washington.
She specialized in Eastern European studies and was the director of a course for women enrolled in the university’s “School of Foreign Service.“
At the level of national politics, she served as a senior adviser to the Democratic Party.
Advised the presidential candidates: Walter Mondale (1984) and Michael Dukakis (1988).
In 1989, she was appointed president of the “Center for National Politics,” a non-profit research organization.
Madeleine’s activities in the years 1990 to 1995
When Bill Clinton ran for the presidential nomination in 1992, Madeleine Albright supported him.
During the campaign, she was his chief foreign policy adviser.
President Clinton appointed her Ambassador to the United Nations shortly after he took office.
On February 9, 1993, Madeleine presented her credentials to the United Nations (UN).
Madeleine’s activities in the years 1997 to 2001
In 1996, Bill Clinton nominated Albright for secretary of state.
The United States Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination.
On January 23, 1997, Madeleine Albright was sworn in as secretary of state.
She became the first woman to hold the highest rank within the United States government. She held this position until 2001.
Madeleine Albright’s impressive career highlights a combination of academic research and political activity.
Without a doubt, her great emotional intelligence coupled with an extraordinary intellectual background, made her an exceptional woman.
Not being a citizen born in the United States, she was not eligible as a presidential successor to the United States and was excluded from nuclear contingency plans.
During her tenure, Madeleine Albright significantly influenced US policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Middle East.
Madeleine Albright began a peacekeeping mission to the Middle East in the fall of 1997.
She had meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak, King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and King Hussein of Jordan.
In the four years between 1997 and 2001, she was decisively involved in the conflicts in Iraq.
On October 23, 2000, she made an official state visit to North Korea, where she met with Kim Jong II.
In 2001, Albright received the “United States Senator H. John Heinz III Award for Best Public Service.”
This award is given annually by the “Jefferson Awards Foundation.”
Madeleine Albright activities after 2001
Since 2001, Madeleine Albright has held numerous leadership positions in numerous political, business and educational entities.
In 2001, Albright was elected to the “American Academy of Arts and Sciences.”
In 2001, Madeleine Albright founded the “Albright Group”, an international strategy consulting firm based in Washington.
Affiliated with the firm is “Albright Capital Management”, which was founded in 2005 to participate in the management of private funds related to emerging markets.
In 2003, she accepted a position on the Board of Directors of the “New York Stock Exchange”.
She endorsed and supported Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.
She has been a close friend of Bill Clinton and has served as an informal adviser on foreign policy matters.
She belongs to the “Board of Directors of the Council of Foreign Relations”; and the “International Advisory Committee of the Brookings Doha Center”.
In September 2009, Madeleine Albright opened an exhibition of her personal jewelry collection at the “Museum of Art and Design” in New York City.
Coinciding with this exhibition she published the book “Read My Pins”.
As of 2016, she is the Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at the “Georgetown University School of Foreign Service” in Washington, DC.”
As of 2016, she serves as chair of the advisory council of the “Hague Institute for Global Justice”, which was founded in 2011 in The Hague.
Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.