Madeline Albright

In 1997, Madeline Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. While serving under President Bill Clinton, first as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and then as Secretary of State, Albright became known for wearing brooches that decisively conveyed her observations about the situation at hand.At a reception at the St. John Boutique in Chicago last week, Albright told a small, select crowd, "I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying 'Read my lips,' I began urging colleagues and reporters to 'Read my pins.'"Albright was visiting Chicago while on a book tour explaining the meaning behind many of the pins in her newly published book, “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box.” Two hundred of her favorite pins are now on display at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York through January and then the exhibition will travel to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The exhibition will then be on view in Washington, DC in the summer of 2010 and Indianapolis, Indiana in the fall of 2010.She said her journey to use jewelry as an arm of international and cultural diplomacy began with Saddam Hussein. As ambassador to the United Nations in 1994, she pressed Mr. Hussein to allow weapons inspections, causing an Iraqi newspaper to label her "an unparalleled serpent." After a meeting on Iraq, journalists" saw Ms. Albright sporting a menacing gold snake pin. When asked why, she answered, "Because Saddam Hussein called me a serpent."She told us that she chose to wear a bee pin whenever she felt talks amounted to "something like a sting.” Her collection is diverse ranging from a series of pins dealing with Americana-- including flags and eagles-- to ones with flora, fauna and insect themes. She always brought a selection with her when she traveled so she could be ready for any situation.My sister is a State Department Diplomat, so it was thrilling for me to be able to talk with Madam Secretary about the two occasions when my sister had personally worked with her in Rome and Budapest. I also told her how my sister had been part of the United Sates team during the independence of Kosovo from Serbia last year. Albright said that her work on Kosovo independence while she was Secretary of State was among her proudest accomplishments and how many young girls in the country are now named Madeline after her.Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and brag about my sister’s work. Last week I had the same opportunity with Madeline Albright.So while my life might be spent putting out fires at the Mancow Show, my sister is the one bringing pride to the family with her international diplomatic work. I should give my sister the $250 gift card we received as a present from St. John after the event because she is the one that deserves it. But I already spent it!
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