Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Madeleine Korbel Albright
Madeleine Korbel Albright "While democracy in the long run is the most stable form of government, in the short run, it is among the most fragile."

Madeleine Korbel Albright (1937– )
Diplomat
PhD 1976
LLD (hon.) 1995

The daughter of a Czech diplomat, Madeleine Albright fled her native land twice as a child—first in 1938 to escape the Nazis, and finally in 1948 to escape the Communists. She was 11 when she came to the United States for good, but her worldview would be shaped by those early experiences: "My mindset is Munich," she said, referring to the infamous 1938 agreement that allowed Nazi Germany to occupy Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. "Most of my generation's is Vietnam." Appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by President Bill Clinton, Albright was the first woman to hold that position; she emphasized human rights and advocated U.N. military action to protect those rights and to prevent genocide. In January 1997, she became the first female Secretary of State and the highest ranking woman in the U.S. government. As secretary, she advocated an active international role for the United States - by then the world's only superpower - and an expanded role for NATO. Before joining the Clinton Administration, Albright held various positions in government and academia - as chief legislative assistant to Sen. Edmund Muskie, as a member of the National Security Council and White House staffs, and as a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University. After her nomination as Secretary of State, she was surprised to discover Jewish roots and to learn that three of her Czech grandparents had been killed in concentration camps.

Albright earned her undergraduate degree in political science from Wellesley College in 1959 and studied at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University before attending Columbia. She received her Certificate from Columbia's Russian Institute in 1968, her MA in 1968 and her PhD in public law and government in 1976, writing her dissertation on the Prague Spring. Her adviser was Zbigniew Brzezinski, who left Columbia's faculty in 1976 to become President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor. In 1995, Albright delivered the keynote speeches at the Alumni Federation luncheon and at Barnard's commencement, where she received the College's highest honor, the Medal of Distinction. A year later, she spoke on United Nations Day at SIPA, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. In May 2003, the School of International and Public Affairs honored her with the Andrew Wellington Cordier Award for Distinguished Public Service for her "strong commitment to public service and to developing constructive U.S. policies abroad."

Read more about Albright in the Columbia Encyclopedia

SIPA honors Albright

Accepting the Cordier Award

Madame Ambassador

On America's UN role

Write Columbia's History

Columbia's history, as seen by those who have studied, taught, and worked here.

Columbians Ahead of Their Time

Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.

C250 Celebrates | C250 Perspectives | C250 Forum | C250 Events | C250 To Go |
Contact C250 | Privacy Policy | About This Web Site | © Copyright 2004 Columbia University