TOM PUTNAM: Good evening, I’m Tom Putnam, the Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. And on behalf of all of my Library colleagues and members of our Foundation’s Board of Directors, many of whom are here in the audience, I thank you for coming to this very special forum.
I want first to acknowledge the generous underwriters of the Kennedy Library Forums, including lead sponsor, Bank of America, represented tonight by its chief marketing officer, Anne Finucane; along with the Lowell Institute, represented by William Lowell; Raytheon, which supports the Library’s Distinguished Visitors series, represented by Lucy Flynn; Boston Capital; the Corcoran Jennison Companies; and the Boston Foundation. Our media sponsors are The Boston Globe, WBUR, and NECN.
Let me begin, Madame Secretary and Governor Kunin, by welcoming you both back to the Kennedy Library. We are honored by your presence. And I know I speak for everyone here in stating I can’t imagine a more exciting duo. What great fortune to have the extraordinary combination of two groundbreaking and ceiling shattering women from our nation’s political history who both happen to be named Madeleine. [applause]
Of course, those are not the only characteristics that our speakers share in common. In fact, the parallels underlying their life trajectories include that both were born overseas, in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland respectively. Both were forced to flee from their homelands as children, escaping the horrors of fascism. Both were raised to believe that anything is possible. Yet, perhaps not even their supportive families could have foreseen the heights of their achievements.
Madeleine Albright was the 64th Secretary of State of The United States, the first female to hold that post, and at that time the highest ranking woman in our country’s history. [applause] In her role as diplomat, Secretary Albright became known for wearing broaches that conveyed her views to the situation at hand. Jewelry, in other words, became a part of her personal diplomatic arsenal. While President George Herbert Walker Bush once declared, “Read my lips,” Madeleine Albright began urging colleagues and reporters to, “Read my pins.” Hence the title of her new book. Thus, if you were across the negotiating table from her, it’s no doubt you might have relaxed slightly were she to arrive wearing a shimmering sun or cheerful ladybug, or stiffened your backbone when seeing that she had chosen instead to sport a copper pincered crab or a menacing wasp.
The book, which is on sale in our museum store and which Secretary Albright has graciously agreed to sign, includes photos and descriptions of 200 pieces of jewelry, including the snake pin she wore after being described by Saddam Hussein’s state controlled press corps as “an unparalleled serpent,” and the zebra broach she wore when meeting Nelson Mandela. I should note shamelessly that we’re also selling our own selection of jewelry inspired by Secretary Albright’s book, perhaps in addition to the book, the perfect keepsake to remember this marvelous fall evening.
Our moderator for tonight’s conversation is Madeleine Kunin, who served as Governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991, the first woman to do so. [applause] She was later named U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, her homeland, by President Clinton, and was on the panel that helped him select Al Gore as his vice presidential nominee. She opens her most recent book, Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Lead and Win, which is also on sale in our store and which she’ll also sign after tonight’s forum, describing how she walked into Vermont’s executive office the morning after being elected and looked up at the row of portraits of somber male governors with names like Ezra, Erastus and Ebenezer, staring down at her as if to say, “What are you doing here?” The answer came a few years later from a nine year-old Vermont schoolgirl who, surveying the same gallery, came upon Madeleine Kunin’s portrait and exclaimed, “Finally, a woman. It’s about time.”
She is currently a teacher, writer and global activist, though she confesses that after leaving public office some habits have been hard to change, like learning how to suppress the urge to work the room when attending cocktail parties. I should note that Governor Kunin has a family connection to the Kennedy Library. Her brother, Edgar May, served as Sergeant Shriver’s top lieutenant in founding the Peace Corps and waging the War on Poverty. [applause]
In her new book Secretary Albright writes that through her jewelry, she was able to inject an element of humor and spice into the diplomatic dance. “The world has had its share of power neckties,” she writes. “The time seemed right for the mute eloquence of pins with attitude.” Please join me in welcoming two extraordinary women with attitude, Madeleine Albright and Madeleine Kunin, whose eloquence and leadership have, thankfully for our nation and our world, never been muted. [applause]
MADELEINE KUNIN: Thank you. This is the first time we’ve actually shared the stage together. And it’s a great pleasure, Madeleine.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Madeleine.
MADELEINE KUNIN: And thank you to the Kennedy Library for hosting us. You know, looking through your book with the wonderful photographs of these gorgeous and interesting pins, it almost made me feel a bit sorry for male diplomats because first of all, now, their ties are not as interesting. And Ahmadinejad doesn’t even wear one. And do you think in a strange way that with your decorative political statements there’s even a small female advantage?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, you know, there were lots of questions – as there were about you -- as could a woman do the particular job. And when my name was out there to be Secretary of State there were a lot of people who said Arab leaders would not be able to meet with a woman and would not pay any respect.
What was interesting -- I had been Ambassador, or I was at that time, Ambassador at the United Nations -- and so the Arab ambassadors there got together and kind of came out and said, “We’ve had no problems dealing with Ambassador Albright.” Whenever I traveled, and I first went to the Gulf states, I was treated with the greatest respect. I did say to them, “You may have noticed that I’m dressed somewhat differently than my predecessors. And thank you for your kind words. And next time we talk about women’s rights.” So I had less problem with the foreigners than I did with the men in our own government.
Ultimately, I think there are a lot of advantages in certain fields to be a woman diplomat. A lot about diplomacy is about personal relations (and I know when you were Ambassador you saw that) and capabilities of empathizing and getting into the other person’s shoes and understanding that and then having a little bit of fun.
I mean, the whole pin thing did start when Saddam Hussein called me an unparalleled serpent. And I did have the snake pin. And so when it was noticed, I thought, “Well, this is fun.” So I went out and I bought a lot of costume jewelry to reflect my moods. And I think that it was, in fact, like an ice breaker. It’s much less boring than … Even President Clinton used to do this and say, “Great tie,” you know? So it does kind of allow for an opening conversation.
MADELEINE KUNIN: It also seems to me it’s a universal language, you know? You don’t need an interpreter to figure out what a small missile means.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Right. That did happen actually. I mean, what happened was I was talking to my Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, and we were negotiating the antiballistic missile treaty. And I had on this pin that actually was an arrow. But he looked at it and he said, “Is that one of your interceptors?” And I said, “Yes, and we know how to make them very small. So let’s negotiate.”
MADELEINE KUNIN: That’s a great line. I can’t help but ask you the question, there seems to be something wiggly crawling up your shoulder. Is that a new one? And what’s behind it?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I’ve had this one, but it is a fly. And I wanted to show that I was not a fly-by-night friend to the Kennedy Library and the Kennedy tradition, and that I’m a good loyal soul. So I’m not just a fly-by-night. [applause]
MADELEINE KUNIN: I guess one of the questions I would have is how do you decide what to wear? I mean, women have a lot of trouble deciding what to wear in the first place for various occasions. You know, it’s not just the dark suit and red tie. But then you have to figure out what to wear in terms of the appropriate pin, as you are doing now.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I do have to have a disclaimer here: I’m not crazy. And that I really have not become or was not kind of driven by the question. This all was a lot of fun. I did not have any strategic plan for all this. It evolved and it got kind of more elaborate as life went on. But what is fun is I do have a lot of pins. And I have them hanging in bags in my closet. And originally I had them by color. And then we decided I should have them by species. But I basically tried to figure out what is going to happen during a day.
The problem was traveling. Because I never quite knew whether I was going to be in a good mood or a bad mood, or what we were going to talk about. So I just kind of scooped up a bunch of pins and then decided at the time. It’s fun. I’ve decided that the first five minutes of when you wake up is the same no matter where you are or what hour of the day. So at least it’s something to get the juices going.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I think you mention in your book, sometimes you just went shopping, either in a flea market or an antique store. And I think that’s what’s remarkable about your pin collection, is that it is very democratic. And I think that’s why people are so interested in the book, because it’s something even they could do. But have you done sort of emergency purchases?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Yes. I am very pleased by the fact that it has been called democratic, big or little ‘d’, and partially because a lot of it is costume jewelry and inexpensive and open to everybody in some kind of a way. And also it has a range in terms of its age. And so all that kind of makes it very eclectic.
But what happened … I mean, in some ways, I’ve created this whole persona, which sometimes is hard to live up to. So I was giving a speech out in Las Vegas and the organizer of the event said, “So what pin are you wearing tonight?” And I said, “I’m not. I’m wearing this necklace.” And she said, “That’s impossible. It’s part of the deal. You have to wear a pin.” So being in Las Vegas, where everything is always open, I went and I had to buy a pin.
I was really excited about doing this book and a little kind of wary as to how it would turn out. And, you know, there was an exhibit that goes along with it. And all of a sudden, Elaine Shocas, who helped me pull all this together, said, “You do realize you’re not going to have your pins?” And I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Well, they’re going to be in a museum and traveling for a considerable amount of time.” I said, “That’s ridiculous. What am I going to do?” So I have now gotten what are known as pity pins. People have given me pins because they’re feeling sorry for my bereft-ness.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Do people kind of approach you before events or on the street and just sometimes hand you pins?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: They do. And some of them are a little strange. One, it was very funny, because I have one that is kind of a folded up dollar bill. And I was with Janet Reno as somebody was giving it to me. And she said, “I am an officer of the law. And it is illegal to use money in this particular way.”
MADELEINE KUNIN: You mentioned a pin related to Katrina. That’s a very moving story.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, this is the most moving pin that I have, and it’s a recent acquisition. I had gone to New Orleans many times previously. And I always thought it was just the most fantastic American city in so many ways. We had a variety of international meetings there. The last one was with the Caribbean foreign ministers. And we marched down Bourbon Street with the jazz band. And so after Katrina, I went down there a number of times.
But I went in 2006 and spoke at the D Day Museum -- which in itself is an amazing place -- and then there was a dinner afterwards. And I’m sitting there, and all of a sudden this young man approaches me. And he says, “My father’s sitting over there. He is a veteran and had been awarded two purple hearts. And he and my mother had their 50th wedding anniversary recently. And he gave her a pin and she died as a result of Katrina.” And he said, “We want you to have the pin, because our mother loved you and it’s symbolic.” I said, “I can’t possibly accept it.” And he said, “No, you have to.” And I opened it and it’s amethysts. And so I had learned to control myself as Secretary of State and not get all teary, but this really was very, very moving. So I think it’s the most kind of meaningful pin in terms of the sentiments that come with it. But I’m afraid to wear it because most of my pins are totally replaceable. This one is not. And so it is my Katrina pin. And that’s how I end the book. This book is not a mystery story, so telling you the ending is not spoiling it.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, it’s a wonderful book. And I must say the photographs are exquisite. But one of the beautiful photographs, and one I know you cherish a lot, is the heart pin made by your youngest daughter on St. Valentine’s Day.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Yes. You know, mostly jewelry is given from the older generation to the younger generation. But this went the other direction. And she made this pin. I wear it every Valentine’s Day. And people say, “Well, how old is your daughter?” And, you know, she’s been 25, 30, 35, 40. And she says, “Mom, you’ve got to tell them I made it when I was five.” You know? But it really is a very special pin and one that has so much meaning.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, I think people relate to your book because many of us have those kind of mementos, usually it’s ashtrays that our children made …
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: … handprints.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: … which are a little harder to wear. and handprints, but also things from our families. You know, when I think of my own family, the jewelry I got from my mother and my grandmother, I think what you illustrate is there’s so much meaning to jewelry, either as a diplomatic tool or as a connection between people. And you did a lot of research on that, too, historically.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I mean, what is interesting is that jewelry has been used as symbols throughout history, mostly worn by men, frankly, in terms of showing their status, their power, their wealth. Originally pins were used to keep people’s clothes on as they went, you know, hunting for lunch or something. But basically they were utilitarian.
There are wonderful stories. One that I really like about the usage of jewelry, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, the original power couple, they had made a bet. She bet him that she could serve him the world’s most expensive meal. And so she served him something and he said, “This isn’t much.” And so she ordered up a goblet of vinegar. And then she took off her perfect pearl earring and dropped it into the vinegar and it dissolved. So she won that bet.
But it is interesting. You know, obviously crown jewels and all that are a part of the history of jewelry. To some extent, they also inspired a lot of imperial activity because countries wanted to go to various places to get the jewels. So jewelry has very much been a part of history and the signaling process.
MADELEINE KUNIN: That’s true. And it’s something you don’t think about usually. But it has a huge tradition. But you’ve given it a new …
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: … a little bit of a twist, yes.
MADELEINE KUNIN: … twist, which I think brings it very much up-to-date. You know, you have a whole section in here on patriotic pins. And I think one of the pictures that is not in this book, but is funny incidentally (it’s not all serious) when you’re with the President of North Korea. And I think this must have been the biggest American flag pin ever made. How did you actually walk with the weight of it?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The main issue was I love the Americana pins. And you have on an eagle. And when I first started out, I got an eagle pin and a lot of Americana things and then American flags. And then I actually was given this amazing pin that goes from here to here. Not so great when you’re sitting. But what happened was that when I went to North Korea, we didn’t have an ambassador there. And it was very difficult to figure out what would actually happen. And what is interesting is the North Koreans had come to the U.S. to invite President Clinton to come. And he very properly said, “Well, I may come at some point, but my Secretary of State has to go first in order to prepare this.” And they weren’t real thrilled about that. But I did go there. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to see Kim Jong-Il because he was unclear about his availability and made certain demands. One was that I had to go see his embalmed father first. So I went and did that. And once I’d done that, he said it was all right, that he would talk to me. So we had this first meeting. By the way, when people look at this picture more closely, it is the same scene that President Clinton was just, you know, sitting there. It’s their favorite thing with this crazy rug and an ocean behind and tapestry. And so I’m standing next to Kim Jong-Il and I decided I really wanted to wear a big American flag, because their propaganda has basically, to the children, said that Americans are terrible and are the reason that they’re starving. And I wanted them to see an American flag next to their leader so that they would understand. So I’m standing next to him in our first meeting and I notice that we are the same height. And I knew that I had on high heels, and then I looked over, and so did he. His hair was a lot pouffier than mine.
MADELEINE KUNIN: You were definitely the American Secretary of State …
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Definitely, right.
MADELEINE KUNIN: … with the flag waving. You can almost hear the Star Spangled Banner playing. But these Americana pins are a lot of fun. Where did you get most of them?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, most of them in flea markets. The first one I really got was in New York. They have this pier show, the antique show. And I found a small eagle, and then I found a little Uncle Sam hat. And I wore the Uncle Sam hat over the eagle in kind of a rakish angle, which was the beginning of something that I started, which was wearing multiple pins. And really what happened was the multiple pins created more and more holes in my clothes, which meant that I had to get larger and larger pins to cover them up.
MADELEINE KUNIN: That’s a very practical solution. You know, when I saw your American flag pins in the book, it reminded me when we came to America and we spoke Swiss German, which sounds a little like German, only the Swiss are very proud that it isn’t. My mother got us all little stickpins with the Swiss flag, which is, you know, a white cross in a red field so we wouldn’t be mistaken for speaking German. But everybody thought it was the Red Cross. So it really didn’t do much good.
But the symbolism of pins is so great. Now even this controversy we had, you know, during the campaign, whether Barack Obama should wear an American flag pin, I mean, it’s really rich territory when you think about it.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, there are very interesting discussions about it, because partially I wear a pin, an American pin, by choice when I want an American flag or an eagle or whatever. In totalitarian countries, North Korea being one of them, people have to wear a pin with the face of the dear leader on it. So when there was this controversy as to whether political figures had to wear pins, I thought that really crosses the line. It’s one thing to have a choice about it. It’s another one to have it be something that is demanded. And I thought it was a particularly silly discussion.
But what is rich about the pins, and things that I did not know, that we were firsts in our field, well, suffragettes, there was suffragette jewelry. And it was done in green, violet, and white — Give Women the Vote. And there were some very interesting pins. And then there was a pin (I have a picture of it; it isn’t mine but I have a picture of it) of women behind bars that were given out as women needed to get the vote. So they were signals already in terms … And then of course, all the political buttons that we wear.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Which we proudly wear. And, you know, as I’m thinking, as the first female Secretary of State, you obviously were in a slightly different role but you had to deal with all the serious issues that any Secretary of State has ever had to deal with. And now you broke the barrier. We’ve had two women in succession. Do you think Secretary of State is a woman’s place today?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I do have to tell you, my youngest granddaughter, who just turned seven, turned to her mother, who’s my daughter, and said, “So what’s the big deal about grandma Maddie having been Secretary of State? Only girls are Secretary of State.” I actually hope very much that at some point we have a man again. The question is whether man can be Secretary of State.
But I think that what has to be understood is that being Secretary of State is just a fantastic job in terms of representing The United States and being able to kind of mix a level of, I actually think the word ‘tough’ is pretty good, with the ability to understand other people’s problems. What I don’t like, if you want to know, is when people decide that questions such as hunger and disease and poverty are women’s issues. They are human issues and need to be central to American foreign policy, whether the Secretary of State is a man or a woman.
I decided that women’s issues needed to be central, not because I’m a feminist, but because societies are more stable when women are politically and economically empowered. I’ve had interesting discussions on the stage with Joe Nye, the inventor of the word ‘soft power,’ which does describe these various issues. I’ve said this even to
Joe’s face, I don’t like the word ‘soft power’ because it’s soft, but basically smart power. And I think that men or women in those jobs have to learn to figure out how using force and using cultural diplomacy and using diplomacy generally are kind of a mix and match that’s necessary.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Right. You have to be both tough … I guess three things: tough, smart, and able to connect on the human level. You know, speaking of diplomacy, obviously President Obama is facing some very tough diplomatic challenges as we speak.
Can’t help but ask, what kind of a pin would you wear if you were going to meet with President Karzai?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I might have a ballot box if I had one. [applause]
But if I were asked now to wear something as people talk about what to do about Afghanistan, I have a lot of kind of “salute the military” pins. Because one of the things I learned when I was both at the U.N. and as Secretary was the greatest admiration for our military people. They are so brave and dedicated and so willing, not just to fight, but also to help in reconstruction and do a variety of things in terms of providing assistance to the places where they are.
And so I have a pin that was given to me by the wife of Dick Myers, who ended up being Chairman of the Joint Chiefs but was my military advisor for a while. And it was a pin that was designed with the insignia of all the Armed Services. And it’s a great pin. So I would wear that. And I think that President Obama has a very, very hard job on Afghanistan. And it’s interesting to kind of think how we got into this position, because I certainly did a lot of campaigning. So did you. And the thing that I talked about was that I thought Iraq was a terrible war. I actually thought it might end up being the greatest disaster in American foreign policy, but partially because President Bush had taken his eye off the ball in Afghanistan. That’s where the people who killed us on 9/11 came from. So for eight years there was kind of a vacuum. And all of us said that we should be paying attention to Afghanistan. So Afghanistan -- and Iraq is now in a different phase -- has become central to a lot of the issues that are confounding to the international system at the moment. And so I think what President Obama’s doing is exactly right, is getting a lot of information.
In the book that I wrote just before this one, which is called A Memo to the President-Elect, which by the way I gave to Barack Obama and wrote in it, “With the audacity to hope that this book might be useful,” I said that I wanted to see a confident President versus a certain President. Because a confident President is somebody that is comfortable getting opinions that may be at variance with each other and listening to people and asking hard questions, and then making up his mind based on the fact that he had in fact done something like that, versus a President who had some kind of gut instinct of message from somewhere that this was something that had to be done.
And so what is very arguably a really difficult situation, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, what President Obama’s doing is gathering people. He has asked for reports from the military. But he also is asking for additional intelligence information, getting Secretary Clinton to give her opinions, the National Security Advisor, and some of the political people in order to really get what the issues are. I think we have to be very, very careful. And there’s the back and forth in terms of whether there’s a requirement for security before there can be economic reconstruction, or whether we should just fight the terrorists. And that is a big discussion, very difficult one. I personally hope that we understand that the problems that we’ve had with Afghanistan have had to do with the existence of a vacuum. And we don’t know where that’s going.
NATO is very involved in this. And what has happened is the heads of state met for the 60th anniversary of NATO recently. And they decided that it was time for a new strategic concept. The last one we did was in 1999. And there was a group of experts to be named. And so each country named an expert. And I was named by The United States. And the new Secretary General of NATO has asked me to chair that group of experts. I kind of call it the old people’s group. So I think that part of what’s going on in Afghanistan is obviously a NATO story. So that also has to be brought into it. And some people think it’s a test for NATO, some for The United States, some for the concept of counterinsurgency versus counterterrorism. So there are a lot of questions. And I think President Obama’s going about it exactly the right way.
MADELEINE KUNIN: So you’re still involved in sharing your experiences and your perspectives as an outside former insider …
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Sometimes asked and sometimes unasked. But I think that it’s useful to sometimes have some outside advisors. I tried to do that when I was in office. One of the things that I did, mainly I think because of my academic background, is I used to have what were called no-fault dinners in the State Department. No-fault because I didn’t want the questions I asked to be quoted. I’m sure you have the same experience. Just the way you ask a question sometimes points to the direction that you want to go in.
But I think when you’re in government (and I know there are a lot of people here that have been in government) you end up reading memos from your own people. And I think it’s very important to get more information into the system. And I do believe in kind of a relationship between think tanks and academics and people in the government. Because there’s often a big disconnect.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well it’s fortunate you had both the academic and the practical experience to bring to your position. When Hillary Clinton was named Secretary of State, did you give her a pin?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I had given her a pin before. I'll tell you what happened was there are not a lot of women in our line of work. And when I first became
Ambassador at the United Nations, when I first got there, there were 183 countries in the U.N. And it was one of the first times I didn’t have to fix lunch myself. So I said to my assistant, “Would you invite the other women permanent representatives?”
And I went to my apartment and I thought there’d be a lot of people there. I get there, and there’s six other women there. And they were Canada, Philippines, Kazakhstan, Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica, and Lichtenstein. And so being an American, I created a caucus. We called this group the G7, and we did a lot of lobbying. We managed to get two women on the War Crimes Tribunal because most of the crimes had been crimes of rape against women in Bosnia.
So when I became Secretary of State, I created a group of women foreign ministers. And I had a pin which was an eagle, a small gold eagle. And it’s in the book. And I had it done with my signature on the back. So I first gave it to those ministers, and then I gave it to some of my really good friends like Hillary. So she has one of my eagle pins.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Did any advice come with the pin?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, the advice was that it really was the world’s great job. I did say something to her, which probably was not very smart, which was it’s actually a better job than being President because you don’t have to worry about healthcare. And she said, “But I like … ” [laughter]
MADELEINE KUNIN: She may be thinking the same thing right now.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: But what I really told her (and I didn’t have to spend a lot of time saying this) is that there is no greater honor than representing The United States, and that there’s so many different subjects to do, that she would really, really enjoy a lot of it.
She and I went to the same college. We both went to Wellesley. So I know where she got her study habits. And she is somebody that really is a problem solver and that I thought that she would enjoy it. And I think she is and I think she’s doing a great job.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, she certainly seems to be doing very, very well in following in your footsteps. You know, the remarkable thing is -- and I don't think this could happen in any other country in the world -- that having been President Obama’s opponent, I think it spoke to the credit of both of them that he was ready to appoint her, and she was willing to accept. Don’t you think this is extraordinary and only happens in a democracy?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I absolutely do. I’m also Chairman of the Board of the National Democratic Institute. And we do a lot of work abroad in terms of supporting democracy, very different than imposing democracy, which is an oxymoron. And what we try to tell people (and it’s not easy to translate to people) is the importance of coalition building, power sharing in a variety of ways that people that might have not gotten along could work together. And there is no better example than what’s happening just now. I mean, Vice President Biden, also. The idea that people that had disagreements can come together is a great sign of the strength of our country and also a great lesson for those that can’t agree. I mean, one of the issues, whatever is true in Afghanistan, is whether there’s any way that Abdullah, who ran against Karzai, can work together, or what happens in a coalition government. So I do think it’s a very important lesson.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Other countries, opponent either ends up in jail … which reminds me of Iran. Do you have any thoughts on Iran and how we can help without dictating what role we should play?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it is obviously a very serious set of issues there. And there are talks going on; I don't know everything that came out of them, but I think they have set another level of discussion. We have had no relations with Iran since 1979. So we know very little about what’s going on inside. And so when people say the society is divided or why did something happen, there’s a lot of mixed intelligence.
But I find very interesting (and I only know this from reading the newspapers) is that the U.S. intelligence community has one assessment of how close they are to having enough enriched uranium to do a bomb. The British think they’re closer. The Israelis think they’re even closer. And so we don’t have legitimate information. And that I think is the downside of not having any kind of relationships.
What people misunderstand I think is that talking to another country is not necessarily nice, nor the people that have advocated talking to either Iran or North Korea say it’s appeasement. It is not appeasement. It is how countries carry on some kind of discussions on serious problems. So I’m very glad that these talks are taking place. Apparently as a surprise the Foreign Minister of Iran showed up in The United States in the last couple of days. And there has been some progress. Again, all I know is what I’ve read, is in terms of possibilities of additional talks and inspectors.
I teach a course. I say foreign policy is just trying to get some country to do what you want. So what are the tools? And my course is called the national security toolbox. I have not yet put pins into it. But what there is is a mix-and-match kind of thing. Usually people talk about sticks and carrots, a very unfortunate image as far as Iran is concerned because that’s what they do to donkeys, but incentives and disincentives, some way of showing that if they come forward and open themselves up to inspections, then they might get some kind of a different relationship, and disincentives, which are tougher sanctions. And so that’s the kind of thing that they’re doing now. It’s not easy. It is not an easy situation. We tried in 1998 after Khatami had been elected to do some signaling.
The problem is that the minute we like somebody -- because we indicated that Khatami was a reformer -- it’s kind of like the kiss of death because then they say, “He’s the American,” you know …
MADELEINE KUNIN: … puppet …
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: … spy or puppet or something like that. So you have to be very careful. And I think that, again, the Obama Administration is being very careful in how they play it. Bill Burns, who’s the number three person at the State Department and a professional Foreign Service officer, a great diplomat, is the one that’s doing the talks.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Do you ever feel that a certain pin that you wore actually opened up a dialogue that would not have happened if you didn’t have this sort of jumpstart on something quite superficial, that sort of opened up the door?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think certain pins allowed me to have an opening, an ice breaker in some ways, of somebody saying, “Why did you have that particular pin on?” And it was one that was given me, actually. And that was the dove that Leah Rabin gave me. She was already Yitzhak Rabin’s widow. I wore the pin whenever we were doing Middle East issues. And at a certain point when I went on one of my Middle East trips, in my room I had a necklace of doves from her. And she said, “In the Middle East, a dove needs reinforcements.” But I wore it also when I went to Rwanda in order to honor those that had been killed during the genocide. And I have to say, I’m often asked,
“What is the worst thing that you were involved in, that you feel terrible about?” And Rwanda is definitely that. It’s a long story, and I can make a lot of excuses. But the bottom line is it was a disaster. And I think that by wearing a dove pin and kind of showing some sense that we had done something that we should not have done, I think it allowed for conversation.
One of the issues that comes up (and I know it’s now come up a number of times -- it came up about President Clinton and it does about President Obama), what is it that you’re doing when you actually take responsibility for something that is bad, that you say, “We shouldn’t have done that?” I am fed up with people saying that Obama should not apologize for things. I think his speech at the United Nations was brilliant because he really explained there were things that we should have done differently. And if we are, in fact, accused of being a unilateral country, then the others can help us. But you can’t get others to help if you never admit that something you did was wrong. [applause]
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, maybe it would help him to wear a stick pin. I don't know if they’ll ever come back for men. What was your most satisfying time as either Ambassador to the U.N. or as Secretary of State? What was your highest moment that you recall?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it had to do with Kosovo, frankly. You know, life is very strange. You and I do have a lot of things in common. But one of the things was that I was born in Czechoslovakia. And my father ended up being
Ambassador to Yugoslavia. So I understood a lot of what was going on in that country. And all of a sudden when we came back in the Clinton Administration, we had an awful lot to do with the former Yugoslavia. And I was very disturbed with how long it took us to do something about Bosnia. So when I was Secretary of State, and there was ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo, I thought that we should do something about it. And it was very complicated, because it was a matter of getting our government first to agree and then to get NATO to the U.N. We knew the Russians would veto whatever we wanted to do, so then to get NATO to do something. And then we agreed that we would take military action. And then we were bombing, the weather was bad. Then we bombed the Chinese embassy by mistake, and all kinds of things were going wrong. And they called it Madeleine’s War. And then when things were going right, they started calling it something else.
But the bottom line was we won. And Milosevic was forced to leave. I’d gone to refugee camps in Albania. And then I went to Prishtina when it was over. And there was a huge crowd in the square. And there were signs all over that said, “Thank you, U.S.A.” And that really was the height. And now there’s a whole generation of little girls in Kosovo whose first name is Madeleine. And so I do feel … [applause]
MADELEINE KUNIN: Well, you know as I do whether you are in appointive office or elective office, there’s still a lot of women who think they don’t belong there, you know, that this is men’s work, that they don’t know enough, they’re not qualified, and that you can’t get anything done if you are there. I’ve been dedicating my time since I left office trying to recruit women, inspire women and tell them, “You do belong there and you can make a difference.” What would you say?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I truly do believe that countries rob themselves if they don’t have women, as I said, politically and economically empowered. I mean, more than fifty percent of any population is women throughout the world, certainly true in our country. And so we are not helping ourselves. I think that women are much more complicated than we are willing to admit.
And then if I might say so, of women that are not like you, who are not focused on mentoring other women … There are women who criticize each other in a way that is putting down or making … I think every woman’s middle name is ‘guilt.’ You’re never where you’re quite supposed to be. And I look at my own daughters in terms of … They all are married. They all have children. And they all work. And they’re trying to figure out where they should be.
And so I think women owe it to each other to help each other. And I have a statement that I make regularly, that got so famous it was on a Starbucks cup, which is that there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other. And I really do think that’s part of what we need to do. [applause] It was slightly misquoted by Sarah Palin, who said, “As Madeleine Albright said” -- she said this to an audience and everybody booed - “As Madeleine Albright says, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other,” which is not what I said.
MADELEINE KUNIN: The converse of that must be also true. There’s a special place in heaven for women and men who do support women.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: But I also do think that we need to have more confidence in what it is we’re doing. And I think that probably the women in this audience will understand this, is that there are too many times that women are in meetings and they think to themselves, “Well, I should say that, but it really might sound stupid.” And then some man says it and everybody thinks it’s brilliant, and you are so mad at yourself. So when I started teaching, because I had this feeling, I said that what had to happen was that women had to learn to interrupt. Now, if you’re going to interrupt, you have to have something that I call -- it’s not a real term -- but you have to listen actively and you have to think about when you’re going to interrupt. But you also have to know what you’re going to say, which means you actually have to know what you’re talking about.
So in my classes, I had said that nobody should raise his or her hand. It means my classes are a bit of a zoo, but it really is important to learn to interrupt. But having taught that, I then found myself in a very strange position. I get to the United Nations and my first day in the Security Council I’m sitting there and there are fourteen men of different races sitting there looking at me. And I thought, “Okay, I’m going to see who likes me and what’s the feeling of the room.” And all of a sudden, I thought, “Wait a minute. I’m not Madeleine Albright. I’m The United States. And if I don’t talk today, our voice will not be heard.” And it was one of the first kind of out of body experiences I had. But it made me realize that we need to be very clear about what we think and when we speak.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Right. And you don’t have to be afraid. I also find that men interrupt women more often. I was struck by that at the Sotomayor hearings where many times, from certain senators, she couldn’t finish a sentence. But then you have to learn how to stop the interrupter and fight back. So, yes.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, a gross generalization, but I make it on the basis of sitting through many U.N. debates, which is that foreigners talk longer than Americans. And American men talk more than American women.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I know that’s counterintuitive, but I think if you record it, it would be true. Well, you’ve had a lot to say today that’s been really interesting. And our conversation is now open to the audience. So those of you who have questions, we won’t accept speeches, but kindly keep your questions as brief as possible.
QUESTION: I’m Drew Helene(?) and I had the privilege of going to school with Peter and Alice …
MADELEINE KUNIN: ... Peter is my son.
QUESTION: My question is what kind of a pin would you wear if you were talking to the Iranians today?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I'll tell you what I’d wear. I have a pin that was actually designed by Bill Cohen’s wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, that is a dove and an eagle together. And it has the kind of incentives and disincentives. And I would wear a green outfit in order to show support for those that had argued against the election results. [applause]
QUESTION: I’d like to ask you about your relationship with Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady and you were Secretary of State, and specifically about your Vital Voices initiative, which I found to be one of the most exciting things that happened during the Clinton Administration but didn’t receive any kind of real publicity. People really don’t know about it. I’m wondering if it’s still going on.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say I first met Hillary Clinton when I was president of an organization called Center of National Policy. She was head of the Children’s Defense Fund and was the most ardent advocate for children and very articulate. We later obviously met during the campaign and made the Wellesley connection. She is ten years younger than I am. But that was kind of a bond.
And then when I was at the United Nations, she was very interested in the U.N. and she came up a number of times when I was Ambassador and met with various people and people would say, “Is she like Eleanor Roosevelt?” And I said, “Well, I didn’t know Eleanor Roosevelt, but she clearly was a great help.” And then we went to Beijing and she made that astounding speech that really kind of shook up the whole place when she said, women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. And so then what happened is we came back. And part of the Beijing action plan was that every government, representatives there from their governments were supposed to create a real plan in order to get more women into positions within the government. And so Hillary and I co-chaired that for a while. Then other people got into it. So we had that ongoing activity within our own government.
Then we sometimes travel together. And seeing her as First Lady, she was amazing. I mean, she was very attentive to all the subjects. We did some things together. It was probably more useful when we split apart, but met with women’s groups and human rights groups. And she, without insulting our other ambassador, she was a fabulous ambassador for The United States. I mean, she was the best, frankly, as she went around.
And then the Vital Voices initiative came out of those things where ordinary women throughout the world were encouraged to speak up. It exists now. It is a very active organization. And Melanne Verveer, who was her chief of staff, she’s now Ambassador for Women’s Issues, Ambassador at Large in the Administration. But Vital Voices go on.
And I think the experiences that Hillary had as First Lady informed a lot of her beliefs on issues and gave her a lot of experience. And it’s one of the reasons that she’s focused on a lot of these issues now, which I do not believe are soft issues. They are the basic issues of how to make societies more stable. And then frankly, I would not have been Secretary of State if it hadn’t been for Hillary Clinton, and partially because we were friends but partially I think she wanted to see a woman Secretary of State. And I always kid about this. There’s me and then there’s this Madeleine Albright person. So the bottom line is it did make a difference that the U.S. finally had a woman Secretary of State. So I think I obviously owe her a great deal. But I also think that she is very focused and the Vital Voices thing does go on. [applause]
QUESTION: So let’s say that you’re in Congress right now and you have to go back to your home district for a meeting with your constituents. And you know what the climate is and you know what people are going to be like and what they’re going to be yelling about or whatever. What pin would you wear?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: You know what I would do, and it’s kind of contrary to what I just said before, because anybody who is now talking about the importance of healthcare or our deficit or whatever is accused of not being a patriotic American, I would wear that very large American flag. Because I think that those of us that are having a set of issues need to make clear to those who are yelling and screaming that we are proud Americans, and that something has to be done about making America what it’s supposed to be.
I’m an immigrant, a legal one, but I am an immigrant. And so are you. And I think that we are very proud to be Americans. Again, it’s a very strange time. I don’t like the divisiveness. And I don't like it when those of us that are supportive of the President are called disloyal or un-American. So that’s what I would wear. [applause]
QUESTION: The last time that I was in this room was a little more than a month ago for the memorial of Senator Kennedy. And I think I probably can speak for many if not most of the people in this room that we’re all feeling a great loss. And I’m wondering if you had a pin to wear that typified your sense of him as a man, what that would be?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all I agree with you about the sense of loss. And just generally about the Kennedys, I have thought about that a lot. I was at Wellesley when Jack Kennedy was running for the Senate. And we all fell madly in love with him. And when he was President, I lived in Washington, and then various ways that we have all identified with the Kennedy family.
I tell you, I think in some ways I might wear … I have a wonderful angel pin because I think that from all that we know more and more about Senator Kennedy, he is somebody who had a very large heart and a sense of watching over other people and caring about their well being. And I think that there are various parts about him that were more caring than anything else, that not enough people saw for a long time.
But I think that he truly was a remarkable person. And it’s hard to imagine that he is not around. I mean, I knew him in many different ways but one you’d be surprised about. When we arrived in Washington, my twin daughters were in the second grade. And they came home from school and they said, “There’s this boy in my class, and he says both his uncles were assassinated.” And it obviously was little Teddy. And so I saw Senator Ted Kennedy as a father, parent meetings and things like that. And I just think he was the most remarkable warm-hearted person who is watching over us. [applause]
QUESTION: It’s such a pleasure to have you come and visit us. I was wondering, can you see a time when a President will have the confidence to recognize Cuba?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I do actually. First of all, I think that our relations with Cuba have been amazingly complicated and a combination of what happens on the island itself and what is happening in our political system. President Clinton wanted to change relations with Cuba, worked towards normalization. And then the airplanes, the unarmed civilian planes were shot down over international waters. And the embargo, which was an executive act, was turned into a law, Helms-Burton.
One of the pins that in the book is a pin that is a soaring bluebird that I had. And I was at the U.N. at the time that the shoot-down took place. And my instructions were to give condemnation of Cuba for what they had done. They gave me a transcript of what the Cuban pilots were saying to each other while they were up in the air. I hope I don’t offend people’s sensitivity. And it’s not family hour. They were just brutal about what they were doing. And they said, “We have cojones. They don’t have cojones.” And then they shoot the plane down, and they said, “We got their cojones.” So I then had a press conference. And I wore the bird with the head down in order to show honor for the fallen pilots. And I said, “It’s not cojones, it’s cowardice.” So it was vulgar. And the Latin press people were very upset at me, but I really did think that they were cowards.
But the purpose of telling you that is we were on our way to doing something different. And I think that we are now looking for ways, that there are changes in Cuba. I don't make a lot of predictions, but Castro will die. And so there already are a certain amount of changes going on. We, obeying the law under Helms-Burton, had in fact allowed for more travel and remittances to be sent to Cuba. President Obama has now lifted some of the sanctions that were re-put back on by President Bush. And I do think that they’re looking at a variety of changes. There’s a law in Congress that actually Congressman Delahunt is interested in, in freeing up travel by all Americans to Cuba. So I think that there will be some changes coming along.
What is interesting, I spent my life as a student of Communism or change in Communism. And I wondered very much why in fact there had been so many changes in Central and Eastern Europe and why not in Cuba. And I think that the Pope had a great deal to do with the changes in Poland. When the Pope went to Cuba, we thought that he might have some influence. But the Pope was Polish and not Cuban. And there really is a different relationship in the church.
And while this may sound crazy, the fact that Cuba is an island makes it harder so that there isn’t that interchange of people. And also, the original revolutionary leader, charismatic Castro, is still alive, whereas in the other countries they had a bunch of [inaudible]. So I do think that change is going to come.
QUESTION: I just wondered have you ever gotten together with Condoleezza Rice? Or if you haven’t, if you were to get together, what kind of pin would you wear?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I'll tell you, you’re going to be very surprised with what I tell you. Life is totally weird and coincidental. As I said, I was born in Czechoslovakia. My father came here and defected. And he got a job because at that stage the Rockefeller Foundation was giving grants to Central European intellectuals or something. And he got a job at the University of Denver. We had no idea where Denver was. And we drove there. My mother kept saying, “They say Denver is the Mile High City, but we’re not going up. Maybe we’re going the wrong direction.”
Anyway, he ended up as dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver. And he died in 1977. And he was by then a pretty big deal. And there were lots of flowers and tributes and all kinds of things. And among them was a ceramic pot in the shape of a piano with philodendron leaves or something in it. And I said to my mother, “Where did that come from?” And she said, “It’s from your father’s favorite student, Condoleezza Rice.”
She had gone to the University of Denver as a music major, and hence the piano, and had taken a course from my father. And he persuaded her to become an international relations major. She got her masters at Notre Dame and was back working on her dissertation with my father when he died. So this African-American woman from Alabama, music major, wrote her dissertation about the Czechoslovak military. So in 1987 when I was working for Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign, my job was to gather foreign policy experts. And so I thought, “Perfect. Here is this Soviet expert woman teaching on the West Coast. I'll call her up.” So I call her and I say, “Condi, would you like to be a foreign policy advisor to Michael Dukakis?” And she said, “Madeleine, I don't know how to tell you this, but I’m a Republican.” And I said, “Condi, how could you be? We have the same father.”
So when she became National Security Advisor, I was still Secretary of State during the transition. So we talked. We would get together, occasionally. There are all kinds of groups in the world. And one is of former Secretaries of State. She has taken away my one distinction, which was that I was the youngest, because Colin Powell’s a month older than I am, and the only woman. So now we’re in that group together.
I don't know. I might wear a dove. But we might disagree a bit. So maybe I'll wear the dove and the eagle or something. But we do talk to each other. And we will be spending a lot more time together. And one of the reasons that we will be is that the School at the University of Denver has now been renamed in my father’s name. It’s the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies. And I was honored before and she’s being honored this year. So we’re going to spend a lot of time together. [applause]
MADELEINE KUNIN: I would just comment that we’d have better diplomacy if we had more cooperation and a little more civility in the system as you’re displaying.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The civility is a big deal, I think. And I know you believe in it. And you have run as a Democrat but are clearly understanding of the importance of dealing with the opposition party.
QUESTION: Madeleine, you could probably help me to understand something I have a problem with in our nuclear power and our situation with Iran. How do we justify the fact that we have more nuclear power than any country on earth and we’re the only ones I guess who have ever used it, and we support Israel and other countries who have nuclear power, but we’re telling Iran they can’t?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It’s a very good question. And let me just say, I told you about the course I teach now. Someday I’d like to teach a course on the unintended consequences of foreign policy decisions. And one has to do with the nuclear issue.
In 1953, President Eisenhower gave a speech called “Atoms For Peace.” And the question always was why did he give that speech? And there are a variety of thoughts about it. One is that there was great guilt for the fact that we had dropped the only nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that people wanted to show that there actually was peaceful use and importance to having split the atom.
I often wondered whether physicists at the time didn’t know how easy it was to move from peaceful to weaponized nuclear power. But as a result of that particular policy, we transferred a lot of nuclear technology to other countries.
There also was the signing of the nonproliferation treaty, which was a bargain that the nuclear powers would systematically disarm and non-nuclear powers would not try to become nuclear powers. The bargain has been broken on both sides because there were various treaties to try to cut down the amount of our nuclear missiles. During the Bush Administration, however, they started testing a whole new generation. So we have broken that. And there clearly are countries that have now acquired nuclear weapons. I think that the nonproliferation system is broken, and there needs to be a new way of looking at it with the U.S. systematically lessening its nuclear power.
And President Obama has taken a series of steps on this. He gave a speech in Prague about nonproliferation and moving to a zero option where we would not have any. And he followed that up in a speech at the United Nations and when he presided over the Security Council meeting. So I agree with you. The U.S. needs to be clearer to do what we said we would do.
The issue with Iran is they are signatories of the nonproliferation treaty. But that requires them to open themselves up for inspection. They have a right to a peaceful nuclear program. But they need to be opened up to inspections. But there is a lot of hypocrisy in all of this, there’s no question. And I do think that President Obama is moving in the right direction on it. [applause]
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, my question regards the Obama Administration’s recent efforts to engage with regimes in Cuba and Myanmar, and was wondering, how does The United States balance its commitment to human rights reforms in those countries while at the same time trying to engage in constructive talks with those regimes without pushing them away from any negotiating table?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think the thing that is very hard is to try to decide, to go back to what foreign policy is about, what tools are available. And is it better to talk to a country than not to talk to a country? One of the tools is to isolate it, and one of the others is to engage. And you have to be able to figure out which is the most useful.
I think that we can do much better by engaging and making very clear what we demand in terms of what we believe are our values. Human rights are one of them. I think it’s very hard, for instance, in dealing with a country that has a terrible human rights record. I think that we give up our own principles if, along with talking about the issue, whether it’s nuclear or trade issue or whatever, we don’t raise the human rights aspect of it. You have to be able to do both at the same time.
And so if you are going to engage, you have to be very clear about the things that you believe in and put them on the table at the same time. On the other hand, I mean, I personally, for a long time … I went to Burma, Myanmar, in order to see whether they would free Aung San Suu Kyi. And she herself did not like the idea that there was engagement with, at that stage they were called the SLORC, the government in office, and felt that they were benefiting from any assistance that was given them because they would take credit for it. And just the way we listen to what Nelson Mandela said in South Africa, we should, to some extent, listen to what Aung San Suu Kyi said. But I think we have to state our position on human rights if we engage. And I believe engagement is not appeasement. It is a way to deliver tough messages. [applause]
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, was curious if, in your capacity, official capacity as Secretary of State, that in the course of your gathering of information to perform your job, that as the first female Secretary of State, that you encountered any resistance to gathering information which enabled you to perform, and if you had any difficulty, whether you had to rely on sources of your own seeking in order to get what you believed to be adequate information to engage in your everyday work.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say this, that once I was Secretary of State, I honestly do not think that things were denied to me because I was a woman. I think that there were certain aspects of discussions that sometimes were irritating, primarily within our own government. I had learned something while I was U.N. Ambassador, that if I argued very strongly for something, I was accused of being emotional. That is not something that they would say to a man. So I learned to argue in a very different way, so I would never be accused of that again. But I don't think that I was denied information.
What I think is a different part of the way that your question is framed. And that is, what is intelligence in the U.S. government? So what happens every morning when I came in as Secretary of State, I would have read five newspapers at home first. And then you get in and you find on your desk a pamphlet that comes from the State Department intelligence and research section that gives you the overnight developments within a diplomatic context.
And then the person from the CIA would come in to brief me. And she would give me what now everybody knows is the President’s daily brief, which was given to just the top people in the government so that you would know what the President was getting. And then there was a much longer document, the National Intelligence Digest. She would sit there through the whole thing watching me. And I thought, well, whether she was watching to see if I moved my lips when I read, but basically she was there in order to answer whatever questions. So that would be it.
And in my experience, the information was never black and white. What it basically was was, “On the one hand, this might happen, on the other, this might happen. This is a particular scenario.” And so the intelligence is the product. The decision maker is the consumer. And you bring to what you see your own Rorschach test. And so I think you have to learn to ask the questions. And you have to be able to discern what is out there. I mean, your own sources are the kinds of things that you pick up in meetings, that you assess. But I think everybody needs to look at it, look at the intelligence that you get with a discerning mind. This is why what I said earlier, you need somebody who has confidence to sort your way through it. But it is not an easy thing, because you don’t have your own sources out there.
The other thing that I did learn as Secretary of State (and it’s always scary to think that people actually learn on the job) is that businesspeople are worth talking to that are overseas. Because in many ways they have a kind of different sense of what’s going on in a country than sometimes the government people, and it’s very important, or students or different people that are not particularly part of the same system. But it’s different than the kind of sources and things that you get through intelligence. But intelligence is a very tricky thing. It’s very easy to blame the intelligence system for failures by decision makers.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Do you have any thoughts on what happened in the previous Administration where they created their own intelligence system?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the hardest part is to try to figure out all the things that really happened in the last Administration. To go back to the question I just answered, I think if President Gore had been looking at that intelligence, he would have seen different things than Vice President Cheney saw. [applause]
And I think that there are a lot of aspects of that. I teach about this. And I have read every book on all this, whether it’s called Fiasco or, you know, they all have these incredible titles. I think it’s very hard to figure out what the system was. You were in the government. It is very important to understand the decision making process. And from everything I could see, the decision making process was bypassed. We had the question about Condoleezza Rice. There was a parallel system that somehow came out of the Vice President’s office. But we don’t know enough about it. And we don’t really know how information got to the President. So I think as stuff comes out, we will know more and more about it.
You know, the decision making process in the U.S. government is complicated. President Roosevelt was always accused of being a messy decision maker. And that’s why the National Security Council system was created, which brings in all the material to the President. But I think it’s a little unclear still what happened and how the intelligence was interpreted and who created the intelligence.
MADELEINE KUNIN: Kind of central question.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as a special reminder of herself, which pin might grandma Maddie give to her seven year-old granddaughter?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I have other hearts that I have. I think I would give her a heart. Because I do think that it is very important in terms of understanding what’s going on in the world. A brain is useful, but ultimately you need a heart to understand what is going on in places. And I love my hearts. And I think I would do that.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I think she would understand.
QUESTION: Good evening. You’ve had a chance to observe some great leaders and probably some not so great leaders. I’m curious to hear what you think the key characteristics are that define effective leadership.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I do think what I said earlier, the sense of confidence, which is not bravado, but kind of a sense of understanding who you are and the capability of gathering a lot of different information. I also think (and this goes with it) that a really great leader listens, and listens in a way that is not just kind of perfunctory, but in a way where questions are asked and respects the opinions of others, and really is a good listener.
And I think a leader needs a moral sense. That is different than a moralistic sense, lecturing people, but a compass. I was very interested in the title of Senator Kennedy’s book; a compass is a very important part of kind of knowing who you are. And various leaders that I’ve admired (and I’m sometimes asked this) there are a number of them. But there are three very special ones.
One is Nelson Mandela, who I think had many of the qualities that I’ve just described plus one additional one, which is the capability of forgiving. I mean, we’ve all read about his life. But the capability of forgiving I think is a very important part.
The other person for obvious reasons that I like a lot and admire is Václav Havel, who also had the capability of forgiving, and a moral sense about what was right and wrong and worked his way through a very difficult situation.
And the third one is Aung San Suu Kyi, who is capable of somehow living off her own strength through a totally horrible situation. So forgiveness and moral compass and strength, and the capability of listening and then making up his or her mind and leading.
MADELEINE KUNIN: I’m sorry that’s the end of the question period, but I think we could add you to that group. You know, we started out on a common note, being immigrants in this country. And you said it made you patriotic. And I feel that way, too. But I also think it made me (and I suspect the same for you) it made us optimistic about this country. And I would add optimism to the qualities of a leader. You have to take risks. We have to believe that change is possible, and then go out and do it. And you’ve done that so marvelously. And it’s been a real treat to share the stage with you tonight and with these terrific audience questions. You’ve been a great audience, thank you. [applause]
TOM PUTNAM: And as you also have shown tonight, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful sense of humor and an overflowing jewelry box. Just so everyone knows, again, the book is on sale in our museum store. So if you’d like to buy a copy, people are lining up already. We’ll bring Secretary Albright up there. And Governor Kunin’s book is also on sale.
And if you enjoyed this evening’s Forum, it’ll be replayed on NECN on Columbus Day at 8:00. So you could watch it again or tell your neighbors. And thank you all so very much for coming. [applause]