Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State, visited Cedar Rapids this weekend to introduce a collection of pins she wore throughout her career that will be housed in the National Czech and Slovak Museum. Each pin in the collection comes with a memory of crucial diplomatic decisions, from casual moments in the White House, to tense meetings with international heads of state such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen in this meeting, I decided to wear the largest American flag I had so that in the pictures it would show that the dear leader was standing there with somebody who was wearing an American flag,” Albright told reporters. “Our intelligence on him was very minimal. People thought he was crazy or a pervert. He was not crazy.”
Born in Czechoslovakia, Albright developed an expertise in diplomatic relations with Eastern Europe. She said her background came into play when the Clinton administration faced the crisis in the Balkans.
“I understood that country and I could see what was happening, that people were being ethnically cleansed. It did make me feel that we needed to make a difference there,” Albright said. As Secretary of State, Albright pushed the U.S. to intervene in wars in Kosovo and Bosnia.
“Yes, my background definitely had something to do with it. And I think it taught me lessons about how major powers need to behave in considering the lives of those who live in smaller countries,” Albright said. She said she sees parallels today in Syria and Afghanistan.
Following her tour of the museum, Albright met with local high school students to discuss her career.