Madeleine Albright's diplomatic pins on display

May 15, 2013

In the summer of 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attended a summit with Bill Clinton and Russian president Vladmir Putin. At the time, Russia had invaded Chechnya, amid reports of human rights abuses and violations of international law.

Albright, who had become known for her decorative pins that carried symbolic messages in diplomatic meetings, wore a pin of three monkeys representing the proverb, “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.”

She says President Clinton was skeptical.

“He kind of looked at me like, are you out of your mind? You are supposed to be America’s chief diplomat and here you are, sending messages with your pins,”                Albright said.

A collection of nearly 280 of those pins has found a temporary home at the National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids.  These pins were worn by Albright during crucial moments in diplomatic history, and did not go unnoticed by opposing parties. She says she hasn’t heard of anyone else using symbolism in their clothing to negotiate... And in that way, being a woman served her well.

“I don’t think that men send messages with their ties …that opens the conversation sometimes. But I think I actually did invent something new.”

Albright will visit the museum and participate in events on Friday and Saturday. The exhibit will be open until the end of October.