Madeleine Albright visits Cedar Rapids

May 18, 2013

As she led reporters around displays of the pins she wore during her career, it was as if Madeleine Albright were introducing old friends at a family reunion.

With each pin came a memory for the former Secretary of State; crucial diplomatic decisions, casual moments in the White House, and tense meetings with international heads of state… including 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," she said, pointing to a large, bejeweled pin on display at the National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids.

"In the pictures it would show that the dear leader was standing next to someone wearing an American flag,” Albright said. “Our intelligence on him was very minimal. People thought he was crazy or a pervert. He was not crazy.”

Albright, the nation's first female secretary of state, is visiting Cedar Rapids to introduce a collection of pins she wore throughout her career that will be housed at the museum through the end of October. 

Born in Czechoslovakia, Albright developed an expertise in diplomatic relations with Eastern Europe. She says 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. The people were being ethnically cleansed. So it did make me feel like we needed to make a difference there," Albright said.

As Secretary of State, Albright pushed the US to intervene in wars in Kosovo and Bosnia. 

“My background definitely had something to do with it. I think it taught me lessons about how major powers need to behave in considering the lives of those who live in smaller countries.”

She says she sees parallels today in Syria and Afghanistan.

Albright is appearing Saturday morning at a Q&A session and breakfast at the museum, and will meet with local high school students to discuss her career.