Excerpt from Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Madam Secretary

by Madeleine Albright

Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright X
Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2003, 562 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2005, 576 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Prologue

We all have our stories. This is mine. It reflects the turbulence of the past century, the expanding and changing roles of women, and the clash between those around the world with faith in freedom and those who place power above human values. Before sitting down to write, I read memoirs by other former Secretaries of State. The books were excellent but the approach their authors took did not seem right for me. I wanted to combine the personal with policy and describe not just what happened but also why and how events were influenced by human relationships. I also wanted to be sure the main character didn’t bore people to death.

Many lives progress in a more or less predictable path, like water through a well-marked channel. My journey has been different. The idea that a daughter of Czechoslovakia, born shortly before the outbreak of global war, would one day become America’s first woman Secretary of State once could not have been imagined. It was almost as inconceivable that someone who had not held a government job until she was thirty-nine years old and the mother of three would become the highest-ranking woman in American history. Well into adulthood, I was never supposed to be what I became.

But if I had a late start, I also hurried to catch up. I began as a public spirited volunteer, raising money for political candidates and various good causes, meeting new people, and steadily expanding my personal horizons while also obtaining a Ph.D. With my family’s support, I crossed the threshold into professional life, working in the Senate and White House, advising Democratic candidates for national office, heading a think tank, and teaching international relations. Year by year, I acquired essential knowledge, experience, and skills. Relatively few people had heard of me when President Clinton asked if I would serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1992. By Washington standards I had had a stealth career, but I was ready. As Senator Barbara Mikulski, a trailblazer herself, said about the two of us, “We were twenty-five-year overnight successes.” Once in government, I had to deal with the problem of operating in a predominantly man’s world. The challenge was not new to me, but the level was higher and the pressures more intense. I am often asked whether I was condescended to by men as I traveled around the world to Arab countries and other places with highly traditional cultures. I replied, “No, because when I arrived somewhere, it was in a large plane with ‘United States of America’ emblazoned on the side.” Foreign officials respected that. I had more problems with some of the men in my own government.

Having completed college at the end of the 1950s, I was part of a generation of women who were still uncertain about whether they could be good wives and mothers and also achieve success in the workplace. From my graduation day until the graduation of my last child, I had to deal with the age-old problem of balancing the demands of family with academic and professional interests. As I began to climb the ladder, I had to cope with the different vocabularies used to describe similar qualities in men (confident, take-charge, committed) and women (bossy, aggressive, emotional). It took years, but over time I developed enough faith in my judgment to do my job in my own way and style, worrying at least a little less about what others thought.

I do think I was lucky to serve a President, Bill Clinton, who saw clearly America’s role as a unifying force in a world moving at warp speed from one era to another. The President believed, as did I, that our country’s purpose was not just to bear witness to history but rather to shape it in ways that served our interests and ideals. He also gave me the opportunity that no other individual, male or female, has had to serve full terms both as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as U.S. Secretary of State. These were the most exciting jobs, and I had the chance to perform them at a time when the UN was newly empowered and, in fact, virtually every foreign policy institution, relationship, assumption, and doctrine was being reevaluated in light of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I loved being Secretary of State and could have written happily about everything that took place during my years of service. While in office, I was regularly criticized after a speech or congressional testimony for not discussing this or that issue or part of the globe. The problem is that there is not enough space—whether in a speech or in a book—to do justice to everything. I found in writing this memoir that literally hundreds of pages had to be chopped to keep the full text at a manageable size. So in covering my years in government, I have had to be extremely selective.

  • 1
  • 2

From Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright. Copright Madeline Albright 2003. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch
    Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch
    by Rivka Galchen
    Rivka Galchen's novel Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a historical fiction tale set in the ...
  • Book Jacket: Paradise, Nevada
    Paradise, Nevada
    by Dario Diofebi
    In Dario Diofebi's novel Paradise, Nevada, the neon allure of Las Vegas is pulled back to reveal ...
  • Book Jacket: Things We Lost to the Water
    Things We Lost to the Water
    by Eric Nguyen
    Spanning over 30 years, Eric Nguyen's debut novel Things We Lost to the Water is epic in scope but ...
  • Book Jacket: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
    by Dawnie Walton
    Within the general arc of many well-established and chronicled historical events is oral history's ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Book of Lost Names
by Kristin Harmel
A heartrending novel of survival, inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    At the Chinese Table
    by Carolyn Phillips

    Part memoir of life in Taiwan, part love story—A beautifully told account of China's cuisines with recipes.

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Win This Book!
Win Together We Will Go

Together We Will Go
by J. Michael Straczynski

A novel as much about the will to live as the choice to end it.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

C T T Chase

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.