tv Madeleine Albright - Great Americans Award CSPAN March 27, 2022 2:25pm-3:21pm EDT
world of politics with our informative podcasts. c-span now is available on apple store and google play. download it today. c-span now, your front room seat to washington anytime and anywhere. >> former secretary of has died. -- madalyn are bright -- madeleine albright has died. she became a u.s. citizen and went on to earn a bachelors's degree in political silent -- science. ms. albright was u.s. ambassador to the u.n. for four years before becoming the first woman to serve as secretary of 1997 to 2001. in 2012, she was recognized for her public service with the
presidential medal of freedom. madeleine albright was 84 years old. ♪ >> from a young immigrant to the top diplomat on —- diplomats. >> represent our ideas and ideals around the world she has always broken boundaries. >> we invite everyone to help us and caution each that they cannot stop us. [applause] born in czechoslovakia on the eve of world war ii with the political refugees after the age of 11 arriving on ellis island on ss america united states is a country where she would make history. jean heerden interest from her
father esteemed professor and diplomat earning a degree at wellesley college here she made the most important decision of her life to become a naturalized us citizen while studying from columbia university afterwards when the political circles for over a decade she stepped into the world stage in 1993 as us permanent representative to the united nations. >> with turmoil and hope that this is a major challenge. >> she knew how to win over allies when necessary over the opposition. >> a poem that came out in baghdad that compared me so i more it when we talk about
iraq. so i went out and bought a bunch of tins so what are we going to do today and instead read my ten. speaking the first female secretary of state under president clinton. >> as the history of this country and the history of my life there's witnessed united states truly is the world's indispensable nation. >> traveling the globe for the sanctions. >> as the new millennium begins this will remain our greatest challenge learning the fundamental less lesson. >> and then she continues to
support the institutions abroad secretary albright with this system is sony and museum of national history to secretary christopher i only hope that my heels can fill your shoes. and then as a young student those of america's values abroad madeleine albright is a great american. her story is a part of american history. [applause] >> please welcome the 64th united states secretary of state madeleine albright.
>> you are known the world around but that was not your birth name how did you get a name like madeleine? >> first of all that's not may first name. but my grandmother apparently there is a play in prague when i was a little girl called madeleine in the brick factory. she decided the name madeleine was a good name however my mother never pronounced anything right. i had no idea how to spell it and it was not intel's switzerland that they decided my name was madeleine spelled the french way but my legal name is still mariana when i
first got my passport issues. then you have to sign your name right away split madeleine and they would say this is not you and i say it is. so it was not until i was secretary of state and make it actually order up a passport. [laughter] >> when he became secretary of state what did you feel more pride in the fact that you are a woman or naturalized citizen or how do you compare those pleasures? >> it's hard to separate i did a priest being the first and the woman was a big breakthrough and i'm proud of that that the fact i could be secretary of state as a refugee and a naturalized american was a big deal. i have to tell you the first person to call me to congratulate me what is henry
kissinger and he said you have taken away my one unique characteristic of being an immigrant secretary of state. i said no. i don't have an accent. [laughter] >> he did say welcome to the fraternity and i said it is and that anymore either. [laughter] >> when you are starting off in the foreign-policy world did you ever think a woman would be secretary of state? >> no. it never occurred to me i h foreign-policy world. my father all we ever talked about at home was foreign-policy. i loved it it is very much a man's world however i had gone to a girls high school into wellesley so there was no question that women could do everything. but had not occurred to me and
[laughter] >> i gratefully preceded technology. [laughter] i did give him advice, which is interesting by the way we are really good friends and had a few arguments when he was chair chairman of the joint chiefs and i was at the united nations. but i basically told him that he couldn't drive his own car all the time and the diplomatic security wouldn't appreciate that so we talked about those kind of things. >> let's go back to your childhood a moment. you were born in czechoslovakia and your father was in the service. then there were some concerns about the nazis ultimately taking over czechoslovakia as they did so how did your family manage to escape from czechoslovakia? >> my father was a diplomat and
he was in belgrade when i was born. my mother wanted me to be born in prologue and then they went back to belgrade. my mother was the most wonderful, delightful person that said exactly what was on her mind. what happened is when after munich when the checks the box didn't fight, i learned of the story much later that she at a dinner party said i would rather be married to a street cleaner than a soldier that doesn't fight. they were then withdrawn back to prague. so my parents were in prague when the nazis came in in 1939 and again i only learned this from some things my mother had written which was that my father tried to figure out how to get out because he wanted to be with the government. they put me with my grandmother
while they went and spent the night in different places all the time. ultimately, my mother wrote that as a result of some bribery, my father did get a visa and got out and they got out by going to london where my father joined the government in exile. we lived in london from 45. >> and what was that like? >> it was basically an area for refugees and we lived in a big apartment. i remember this, a big apartment building where we went into the seller during the raids. my father broadcast for bdc. one of the things he did as a part of the job was to do the
service from bbc. i used to think he actually lived in the radio. [laughter] but he would say i don't know why we go down there because there are hot water pipes and gas pipes down there. when i was doing research for my books i went to the place and to the apartment and then asked a stupid question like is it still there so i went there and all of a sudden i had that moment that i recognized the same green paint that had been there. they had these big tables that apparently they said could protect you during an attack so we slept under the table, ate on the table, played around the table, and i kind of spent a lot of time in the shelters waiting for the all clear sign.
>> so why did your family decide to go back because it wasn't clear the communists were going to take over and your father wasn't a communist? >> my father was very young and kind of one of the assistants who became the foreign minister. he went back and it never occurred to them they wouldn't go back so they went back to prologue and then my cousin and i, my younger sister followed and it wasn't clear that they were going to win. it was a coalition government at the time. what was interesting is he became the foreign minister and the deputy was a communist. they had been very well in the election of 1946 and it was a coalition government at the time
and operated that way until february 1948. >> and your father decided to take the family out of czechoslovakia but why did he not go back to london, why did he go to the united states? >> he was a professional diplomat so in the three years time he was in belgrade. my father didn't want me going to school with communists, so in yugoslavia i didn't have a lot of friends but i got kind of ahead of myself and in europe you can't go to the next phase until a certain age so my parents sent me to switzerland so i went to school in switzerland when i was ten and they were in belgrade. so the stories i had gotten from reading my father's books. what happened was his three-year
term was up and it was time for a new assignment, so his assignment was to be a member of a new commission to deal with india and pakistan over kashmir and he wanted to have the assignment and then what happened is the communists took over. his best friend was a british and american ambassador and they said your country just had a coup if you resign they will need a communist to take your place. but if you report to our government, we can get something done. so he made that decision. they pretended that my mother was going back to prague and picking me up in switzerland and my brother and sister while my father went to india. so he then, we went to the united states because he was working for the united nations and i have no tragic story about climbing through barbed wire.
we lived on long island because that was the story. hispanic but at some point your father would lose his diplomatic -- >> what is cited as he decided he didn't want to work with the communists and he defected and asked for political asylum. when i went into office i was given the papers in which he had written to dean atchison begging, i beg for political asylum. and he was given political asylum and we then he was stateless and jobless. the rockefeller foundation found jobs for central european intellectuals and found a job at the university of denver. we had no idea where denver was. [laughter] my parents bought a car and we started driving across america and my mother said they say
denver is the mile high city but we are not going up so maybe we are going the wrong direction. [laughter] anyway my father started teaching. the university had a whole international department called the social science foundation and he started teaching and became a professor and used to say there is nothing better than being a professor in a free country. >> so you became more of an american accent. >> we had arrived and thanksgiving came up and we gathered together to ask god's blessing and i heard somebody asking and thought from then on i asked.
how come you decided to go to wesley? >> we really were refugees. we lived in lots of different houses and when i go there now i love to give the tour of the various places we lived in and people were very nice and brought presents for us. what happened is that there was a girls school in denver where my father insisted i go and i went on scholarship. there were only 16 girls in our graduating class and what happened is i couldn't go to college unless i got a scholarship. i chose wellesley and it appealed to me tremendously about my english teacher had gone to wellesley and they loved it so the last weekend was kind of a choice between stanford and
wellesley and i'm very glad i chose wellesley because my whole life would have been different. >> do they tell you they give more financial aid to -- >> what actually did happen and made me think my life was going to be a disaster, stanford always gives their responses earlier than the others, and i got accepted and there was no scholarship. i ran out of the house screaming saying that my life was over. my father came to find me and the people at the school said it's very unfortunate they didn't give you a scholarship because it is kind of a sign of how the other schools will feel. what happened as i got letters from all the others with scholarships and wellesley and stanford said i had gotten a scholarship and it had come in a different letter then the head of the school said it's too bad you apply it to so many and you are only going to one that will
not help your classmates, so i wasn't very happy about that. >> you got married that a you graduated, more or less. >> three days. >> you then moved with your husband to new york -- >> first to the army out of missouri. one of the things that happened at wellesley is i had gone to school in denver and i had everybody at that stage with bermuda shorts and at wellesley they had a system where if somebody came to visit you, they would announce it all through the corridor doors and so they said madeleine korbel, there are some ladies here that want to take you into boston to show you what the american girl wears. i said yes that's true and then
i belonged to something they call the cosmopolitan club and i found out that a third had been american students but i was there as a foreign student so when i went to ask about how i had done on my sat scores they say amazing. and i didn't know if it was because they thought that i was a student. i wanted to be a journalist. my husband was a journalist. and while he was in the army, i worked on a small newspaper and then he already had a job in chicago so then we moved to chicago and we were having dinner with his managing editor and he said so what are you going to do. i said i'm going to work on a newspaper and i said i don't think so. you can't work on the same newspaper as your husband because of labor regulations and even though there were three other papers he said you
wouldn't want to compete so go find another. i went to work for encyclopaedia britannica and for some of the people here at the book -- [laughter] it was because i had the foreign policy background to review the article every year. you migrated to washington with your husband and began getting involved with your children's school and involved in a lot of activities and some political
fundraising. i had been put in charge of fundraising and i did it with another person that was apparent and he was from maine and was asked to chair a big fundraising dinner april 17th, 1972 and he knew that i had done all the work so he asked me to cochair it with him and it was my first experience of fundraising and my first experience at one of the more peculiar historical events. the first phone call was from the embassy saying the campaign managers had invited so i put the people on hold and called out george mitchell and said what about this and they said we didn't invite him. if he wants to come, fine but we
don't have any limousines. in the course of the day they were delivered and pizzas delivered and liquor delivered and i kept sending everything back. then there was the vip cocktail party and all of a sudden there was a couple that comes in. we had two dozen african ambassadors that had been invited. it was a completely seated to dinner so we had to rearrange so we didn't just have tables of the ambassadors and then there was a couple that came in.
the bottom line is that during the watergate hearings, they admitted to all of this being a part of the tricks. he said he had innocent elephants. so that was my first political experience. >> ultimately, he must of liked what you had done for him and offered you a job. >> this is after the 76 campaign. i had done some stuff for him in maine and became the chief legislative assistant. >> so then jimmy carter gets elected president and your former professor at columbia where you had gotten a phd gets the job as the national security advisor and you were hoping that he might offer you a job or what happened? >> he called me over the christmas holiday and said
perhaps you've heard i've been named the national security advisor. i said yes i've heard of that. he said will you find me a place to live and i said i thought you were calling to offer me a job. he said no i'm calling to ask if you can find a place to live. so i did. and i didn't go. he asked me in 1978 to come to the white house and work during congressional relations which is when i met you. >> so what did you really do? >> that's what i did. first of all, i loved the job and i had a choice, which you will understand is the truth having a fancy office and the old executive office building or literally a closet in the west wing. so i chose the closet which was right outside of the situation room and then i was trying to
figure out what i was supposed to do and i became good friends with the white house legislative people and they could see the value of having somebody that understood foreign policy be a part of giving away the panama canal and various things we did. i did sit in on pretty much every meeting he had with members of congress, but my first experience was one of the first things that had to be done it was a middle east arms sales package. we were sitting in the cabinet room and everybody was there. so, i am taking notes and i knew that the members were members of congress asking questions and i knew that i would have to have something to do with answering the questions. so i then go back to my office and i had a timeline. he called up and said would you come up to my office and
secretary brown and secretary vance are here. bring your notes. i go up and they said how does president carter get from this point to the other point and i thought, you know, you guys were there. [laughter] i looked down at my notes and it was just kind of questions i go back to my office and i thought all right, i'm going to get fired on my first or second week. so i decided to defend the best defense was a good offense. i said i didn't think i'd been hired as a secretary and he said you weren't. the rules of the government is the lowest level person takes the notes. you clearly were the lowest level person so i learned pretty quickly. >> so eventually, your former boss becomes the secretary of state so then you have a difficult job. your current boss they didn't get along so how did you
navigate that? >> it was difficult because one of the things that had happened initially as he was the columnist for "the new york times" he and he wrote, he had interviewed muskie and had asked him how are you going to get along with brzezinski and he said it will be fine because my former legislative assistant is up there. so, putting a little pressure and then i met quite a lot with him to kind of talk about what the job was like. but what happened he called me up and said madeline, i've had it with your boss. every time we are in the oval office and talk about something, he gives us the name of every tribe in nigeria and says he's a professor. that's what they do. so then he called me up and said i can't stand it anymore. your boss, your former boss all he does is ask questions. i said he was a senator.
that's what senators do. but ultimately it came to be impossible because he called me up and said i don't believe this anymore. i can't stand it. he keeps saying he's more polish than i. i thought i'm never going to be able to get through a second term. >> so a lot of the carter people have to get new jobs. what did you decide to do? >> i decided to put my phd to work and i got a job at the georgetown university teaching in the school of foreign service and it was interesting because georgetown had been a single school and they had become coed and wanted to have women professors. i was hired to be a role model which is not a simple activity. and i had a never taught so i
began to teach and i taught some graduate students and undergrads and really liked it. i was a full-time professor. >> in 1984, mondale gets the nomination and keeps the vice presidential nominee geraldine ferraro. what was your involvement in that campaign? >> what happened is one of the stories in my life is one thing does lead to another. to go back on something what had happened was because i had done so much fundraising for ed muskie he's running for president and would i be his fundraiser. i was trying to make up my mind about whether to do it or not when he pulled out and when i was sitting in his office and he was interviewing me for the job,
mondale walked in and brzezinski said we are thinking of hiring madeleine for this and she said one thing led to another. so we had to been very good friends when he was vice president and when he was running for president, i was one of his foreign policy advisers. when she had been elected to congress because i did do congressional relations, she was the chairman of the platform committee and i was the mondale representative to that. so then when the convention was in san francisco, what happened was they asked me to become the foreign policy advisory and i traveled with her through the whole campaign. >> not because of your advice didn't work out, but it turns out four years later we were the principal foreign policy adviser to the nominee of the party with
michael dukakis. what was that like? >> it is very interesting to be with her because her crowds were huge and people were fascinated by a woman candidate in national office. she did break the glass ceiling. >> about neither of you thought you were going to win. >> we thought we were going to win. [laughter] in 88 what did happen which is interesting again, when i talked to my students or young people generally, you never know how people get to know each other and how they work together. i've been on the plane and did work hard so i got introduced to
michael dukakis. i met him and he had asked me to do some stuff to advance the platform in denver. so he asked me to be his foreign policy advisor so this isn't a secret to people in this audience. foreign policy advisers in washington usually say i'm advising everybody. the national journal says a woman walks into a cocktail party and is immediately surrounded by is it brooke shields, no it's madeleine
there was a message from warren christopher saying go get yourself vetted to so i took my tax papers and then he called and said come down and don't tell anybody you are coming which is a little difficult but that is how it happened. >> it was on a new trajectory in terms of post-cold war when the soviet union wasn't and basically there were not vetoes all the time.
this is what really did happen. he was one of the most generous people in the world. he did make clear that he wanted the job for a second term and i'd been on tv a lot for different things. what happened as the ambassadors got together and we had no problem dealing with ambassador albright. we wouldn't have a problem dealing with secretary albright so that went away.
then somebody, and i never want to know who at the white house said madeleine is on the list but the second tier. so i didn't think it was going to happen at all. and i honestly didn't think, i was back in new york and got a phone call like december 4th from turns down the bowl's saying of the president of the united states were to call you tomorrow, would you take the call? and if you were to ask you to be secretary of state, would you say yes? so obviously i said yes to both and he said go home and wait for the president's call. so i go home and i was nervous and i had asked the chief of staff to spend the night then i forgot i was dealing with president clinton who didn't get up early in the morning. i was even afraid to take a bath sitting there in my pink bathrobe and kept saying he's changed his mind, he is changed
his mind. he put on some portable music and i was sure he changed his mind. so then he gets on and said will you be my secretary of state and i said yes. then the question was what was i going to wear, which is where the red dress comes in. >> while you were being vented to be secretary of state it turned out that your parents never told you. >> when i became ambassador to the un, i started getting letters from people indecipherable trigger handwriting and said i'm a relative i want money and a visa or that it never had the names of the villages or the dates
right and every once in a while there would be something that said you are from a jewish family or there was some that didn't like madison i was just a jewish [inaudible] and i decided to ignore that. so by the time my name is out there and i was being vented, i got a letter from somebody that had the names of all the villages and the names of the families and the dates and all that. is there anything we should have asked you that we didn't and i said i just got this letter and it's possible that i'm of a jewish background and they said so what the president isn't anti-semitic. so over the holidays i talked to my daughters about it and they were endlessly fascinated because they thought my parents were wonderful and interesting and of the stories were so crazy anyway.
and so then what happened was the reporter for the "washington post" wanted to do a profile of me, and you're not allowed to talk to the press between the time that you are named and confirmed. we gave the names of a bunch of people he got in touch with and two days after i was confirmed, he came to my office and he started handing me these disgusting cards the nazis kept about who they sent to concentration camps. he said did you know this person or this person and i just was there's no way to describe how i felt and i felt as if i had been asked to represent our country in a marathon, the first to ever have to do that and be given not only a heavy package to carry but unwrap at the same time and
i couldn't go to try to figure out the story myself. so i asked my brother and sister to go to the czech republic to begin to figure it out and they are the ones who began to put the story together. it's taken a very long time and last summer i went to prague with my daughters and six grandchildren to the members of my family that died in the holocaust. >> while you were confirmed for the senate was it a very close vote? >> 99-nothing. what is the greatest pleasure of being secretary of state and what are you most proud of i've believed in the goodness of america and what america can do.
at the story of my life is when the u.s. is not around because the british and french. terrible things happen and as a little girl i remember everything changed and then as a result of the agreements made in world war ii, czechoslovakia was liberated by the soviet union and that changed everything so the threat in my life has always been if the u.s. is doing something good and useful, we can make a difference. i felt that way when i was at the united nations and so all of a sudden to be able to have something to do with making a difference for other people's blood was so stunningly important to me and when the peopleask me what i'm proudest , it's partially because i had
been upset at how slow we were to do something about bosnia and that is when i had my argument with colin powell and then i thought when xhosa vote is going on and cleansing is happening, i thought okay now i am secretary of state and i can do something and it's a pretty good case study in terms of getting the u.s. government to go along with it. it took that interagency thing and then persuading nato to do something and then what happened is the night that the airplanes start, president clinton calls me up and says we are doing the right thing, right? yes we are doing the right thing. then what happened is the weather was bad. they put out some decoys and then a couple of days later i come into my office and they say sit down. what is the matter with you and
they say we just bombed the chinese embassy by mistake. so at this stage they called it madeleine's war, not as a complement. when i go back to xhosa vote now, there is a whole generation of little girls whose first name is madalyn and they all are so grateful for with the united states did so that's what i'm proud of. >> one time when you were secretary of state revealed why he had picked you and why did he say he picked you? >> what happened was that it goes back to the time of the great mentioning. we used to travel together and we were someplace in central america and what happened was i would introduce her and she would introduce him and said the following thing during that period when people were trying to make up their mind she would say why don't you say madeleine,
she's most in tune with your views and expresses them better than anybody else and decided it would make your mother happy so that is how it happened. [laughter] >> and you became a famous for wearing a pin. how did you pick those? they compared me to many things but among them an unparalleled serpent. and i had a snake pin so i wore it whenever we talked about
iraq. i wore flowers and butterflies and balloons and bad days insects and carnivorous animals and the other ambassadors what to say what are we going to do today and the first president bush would say read my lips, no new taxes so i said read my pin and that's how it started but it got to be so funny for instance you will remember this. the russians were bugging the state department when i was secretary. for those who want to know more about madeleine's life, we've run out of time tonight. she's written three excellent books one is madam secretary
about her life in excellent book very well written and very frank. the second book about her growing up in czechoslovakia and a second book about pins which tells you a lot about them and on behalf of the american people i'd like to thank you for your service to the country and awarding the presidential medal of freedom we'd like to give you one additional award tonight. >> can i thank you very much for giving me this honor. i truly am a grateful american and the opportunity to sit behind a sign that says the united states and be able to represent the country and then the greatest possible honor.
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