14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2003
I enjoyed reading this book very much, the writing style is easy and Ms Albright brings a variety of international political personalities to life.
Ms Albright is an articulate, intelligent yet unpretentious writer. You feel the author is sitting with you conversing about her journey from a humble start as an immigrant from Czechoslovakia to becomming the highest ranking woman in office. I also liked the fact that despite some painful experiences the undertones of this book were positive and optimistic throughout. I suppose you must always have hope to work in politics otherwise you cannot strive to move forward.
Some of her stories in office are hilarious, like when she brought Yasser Arafat home from a break from some intense political negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Her grandson ran screaming into the house upon seeing the President of Palestine, let's just say he didnt find him to be too aesthetically pleasing to the eye :) Others are very touching like when she discovered only a few years ago that her grandparents were sent to concentration camps and how she could (if at all) reconcile this fact with her successful and safe life when she still had family living in Czechoslovakia throughout those difficult times. The guilt and the gratitude she must still feel to this day.
She made politics interesting for me and showed me that the people you see making huge descisions in the world are also human beings and not just distant faces on the television.
Thank you Ms Albright for writing an inspirational moving and touching book, I enjoyed every chapter. My only complaint is that I would have loved to read more and more about your life.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2003
The best book if you want to understand the contemporary history. Albright expalins it very well and is easy to follow. the books is fascinating to read and i would recommend it to anybody, even if you have no time to spare for "pleasure reading" as this book is very much worth it. Also, this book made me re-think my plans to do my Ph.D. Now I am in the mids of applying for the program. The book is great mood lifter as well as a just plain excelent work of life. I wish all biographies (auto and non) were written that way.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2009
I bought "Madam Secretary" almost five years ago, and only read it recently, during my holidays. I now regret not having done so before, but then, it is always best to do something late than never at all.
Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become Secretary of State in the United States, shares with us the story of her life, and a look behind closed doors regarding events that we can already find in the pages of history books. In this book you will find the kind of details regarding her professional life that will allow you to understand things like the dynamics of high stakes negotiations, or the important role that humor plays when trying to avoid direct confrontation.
In her collaboration with Bill Woodward, Albright manages to engage the reader, and even make him laugh. Can you help but smile when you read that "The mood was good - deceptively so. The summit would rapidly deteriorate into an exercise similar to the herding of cats"? Or fail to appreciate Albright's self-deprecating humor when she said to the Security Council that action on an issue had to be delayed until she received orders from Washington, because "The issue will not be decided until the fat lady sings"?
On the whole, "Madam Secretary" is a book that I loved. In my opinion, it is a very good choice for people who like to read witty and well-written autobiographies, but a particularly special treat for those that are also interested or working in the field of International Relations. Highly recommended...
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"Madam Secretary" presents the memoirs of Madeleine Albright, the highest ranking woman in the history of U.S. government (despite what conclusions you might have reached about some of the First Ladies, Edith Galt Wilson in particular). During the eight years of the Clinton administration Albright served as U.N. ambassador and then, following the resignation of Warren Christopher, as Secretary of State. Half of "Madam Secretary" is devoted to that period of her life, while the rest tells the story of how a refugee from Czechoslovakia eventually became the first woman Secretary of State in American history and one of the most admired public figures of recent years (she was confirmed 99-0 by the Senate). The result is a book that is both candid and insightful. The memoirs of any Secretary of State are going to be of importance, but "Madam Secretary" is actually a good read.
Madeleine Korbel Albright was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937. Her father was an official in the Czech government-in-exile who fled to London, where she remembers enduring the blitz. Her father served in several diplomatic posts after World War II and when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948 he sent his family to the United States, where he ended up running the School of International Studies at the University of Denver (where one of his prize students was Condolezza Rice). On the personal side of the ledger Albright talks about her marriage to "Newsday" scion Joe Albright, which ended in divorce, raising her three daughters, and learning late in her life that her Jewish grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps. Earning her doctorate from Columbia, Albright worked her way from being Edmund Muskie's senior legislative assistant to work for National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brezinski in the Carter Administration. When the Democrats returned to the White House in 1992, Albright moved into the upper stratosphere of American diplomacy where she proved herself to be a Wilsonian moralist whose hero was Dean Acheson.
In the most important parts of her memoir Albright provides commentary on all of the foreign policy crises with which she was involved, from Rwanda and Serbia to North Korea and Iraq, with NATO's humanitarian intervention in Kosovo being the episode that stands out most in my mind as the one she wants to present as being paradigmatic of what the Clinton administration was trying to accomplish in terms of foreign policy. Not coincidentally, it was also the specific policy on which she was the biggest advocate and primary architect. She does not make the explicit argument, but when you read of how her family came to the United States the policy seems a logical extension of her personal story. Clearly the goal was to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and not as sign of support for the Albanian guerrillas.
You will also find Albright's views on the national and world figures with whom she had to deal, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Vaclav Havel, Vladmimir Putin, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yasser Arafat, Slobodan Milosevic, and even Kim Jong-Il. Of course, a recurring theme of Albright's book is how she had to prove herself in the male-dominated world of power politics, which lends a certain power to the scene where she describes waiting for the phone call from President Clinton where he told her he wanted her to be his Secretary of State. Albright consistently places the emphasis on presenting her side of the record rather than going out of her way to defend particular policies and actions. Her position on American foreign policy is clearly implicit in her accounts, but she does not go out of her way to be an advocate.
Obviously this volume will be a primary document for assessing the foreign policy of the Clinton administration. Albright comes across as being candid and self-efacing, while also provided insights into the goals of the Clinton foreign policy. Having long ago grown tired of the public statements of any and all government officials, it was refreshing to read what it was like to play this came from someone who was actively involved and has never been burdened by being an elected official. Ome of the biggest compliments I could pay to Albright would be that this memoir comes across as being written by a real person. She might have been a diplomat, but she was not a politician (an assessment that I think applies to her successor at the State Department as well). Of course she touches on issues, such as terrorism and relations with Iraq, that are of even more importance today. "Madame Secretary" includes a pair of 16-page color and black & white photo inserts and a chronology of Albright's personal and political life. This 562-page volume will be of interest to not only Albright's personal admirers, but anyone interested in the machinations of American foreign policy in the past decade (especially if they have read Michael Dobbs' "Madeline Albright: A 20th Century Odyssey," the obvious companion volume for a presumably more objective look at the same subject).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Madeleine Albright led a remarkable life - fleeing as a child across war-torn Europe, first from the invading Germans and then from the invading Soviets, the little girl from Prague came to America before a teenager, and ended up becoming the first female Secretary of State in American history (although, interestingly, not even the first non-American-born Secretary of State in the last half century!). She reinvented herself as an American, someone who fell deeply in love with her adopted country, even to the extent that her name Madeleine, isn't the one with which she was christened (although it is the French version of her name, and thus we are reading the memoirs of Madeleine, not Marie Jana Korbel).
She weaves together her personal life and insights together with the professional experiences she has had throughout her various careers, culminating with the office of Secretary of State for several years in Bill Clinton's administration. Her father, part of the Czech government-in-exile, immigrated to America and became a professor (interestingly, one of his student was Condalezza Rice, one of the principle voices in foreign affairs in the current Bush administration). Albright thus had training from the very beginning in terms of both academic and practical aspects of governments and diplomacy.
Albright's academic credentials are impressive, and her experiences in school shaped her later career. For undergraduate work, she studied at Wellesley College in Political Science, and then went to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She finished her formal education at Columbia, receiving a Certificate from the Russian Institute, and her Masters and Doctorate from the Department of Public Law and Government. This is also where she got involved with political and media affairs in earnest.
She was a White House staffer, including staffing the National Security Council, during Carter's presidency; during the 12-year Republican administrations in Washington, her career focused on the Center for National Policy, a non-profit liberal think-tank/research organization formed in 1981 looking at issues in domestic and foreign policy. This gave her continued presence in the field so that when the time came, Clinton tapped her to be the ambassador to the United Nations, and then later Secretary of State.
She met and married Joseph Albright, part of a wealthy media family, and recounts in some detail and emotion the difficulties with the breakup of that relationship. She also confesses an affair with a Georgetown professor, and other difficult times in her life. However, these take a back seat most of the time to her professional career.
Albright makes the claim to have not discovered her Jewish ancestry until late in life; there is reason to discount this belief, given that she is the kind of person likely to know the details of her background, and given that she visited family back in Czechoslovakia back in the 1960s. Reasons for not wanting to be identified as being of Jewish descent during her career are unclear, but in an otherwise very straightforward autobiographical account, this one point seems less than convincing.
Albright does reflect with candor on many world leaders, including her boss Bill Clinton, and his wife Hillary; few of the key names of the 90s are missed here. Ultimately, one comes across with the impression of a erudite diplomat, a skillful politicians, and a sincere worker for the best interests of the nation.
on 14 September 2014
This is an excellent memoir. The USA to date has subsequently had two women Secretaries of State, Condoleeza Rice (in George W Bush's second term) and Hillary Clinton (in Obama's first term) but we should not forget the signal contribution made by Madeleine Albright, not least because it followed immediately after four years as USA Ambassador to the United Nations, so in all she spent eight years dealing with foreign affairs for the US at the highest level. The oldest child of Czech political refugees, the history of her early years is fascinating (see also her subsequent book "Prague Winter"). Because of her interest in international issues one gets a real sense of her following in her father's footsteps because, after a promising early career in the Czechoslovakian foreign and diplomatic service and working for the wartime government in exile, he had established a career as distinguished academic in the USA (teaching, among many others, Condoleeza Rice). The book charts her university years, early marriage, early work in journalism, parenthood and further academic study. Though apparently settled on an academic career, Dr Albright was a sufficiently committed Democrat be drawn into various political campaigns in the 1970s and 80s, and was invited to join Zbigniew Brzezinski's team in the Carter administration - her first direct experience in government (Brzezinski had been one of her professors). This is the stage at which the book moves into more detail. The painful divorce (her husband left her for someone else) was followed by a period successfully "picking up the pieces" and consolidating an already successful career to the extent that she was chosen for the UN job when Clinton gained the White House. Perhaps all autobiography is self-serving but to me Dr Albright's comments on events which are well within my memory seem reasonable and, since she experienced them from the inside, fascinating. One thing that shines out from her descriptions of the UN and State Department jobs is the sheer volume of work she and administration colleagues undertook. The Kosovo crisis is an example when they managed some degree of success; the huge efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians talking,and keep talking, only for this to unravel in the last days of the Clinton administration are heartbreaking, and not for want of effort on her part. She is also disarmingly candid about failures and miss-handlings such as the Rwandan genocide when the USA and Europe were slow to engage. Everything is clearly explained (not for nothing was she voted best teacher in her department four years in a row when a professor at Georgetown University!). Strongly recommended, whether or not you're old enough to remember events from the '70s on.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is an unusual political memoir. There are few long explanations of diplomatic and bureaucratic ins and outs. Albright focuses mainly on personalities, her family life, behind-the-scenes stories, and the Big Picture. In other words, she condenses all the parts I would have skipped anyway.
Albright's enthusiasm is evident throughout. She doesn't downplay her excitement at being appointed Ambassador to the U.N. and Secretary of State. She obviously wishes she still were Madam Secretary. She shows us a different side of world leaders. Hear Igor Ivanov, Russian foreign minister, singing in a revue; watch Albright cause Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to have an apoplectic fit. She talks about juggling day-to-day concerns with conducting world diplomacy (the big hats were for bad hair days). One of the best chapters is about her spur-of-the-moment trip to Poland, just as the Solidarity uprising was about to explode.
A fascinating book, a brilliant career, and a remarkable woman.
on 30 December 2011
Good book that allows us to know better about an amazing lady as well as the American political environment and international relations. I would definitely recommend its reading.
on 19 October 2015
Very good thanks
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2008
She doesn't mention her tv interview that 500,000 children died die to un sanctions from 1991 to 2003 and she said it was right they died that way