Bon Mots From Madeleine

IMG_0027This afternoon rather than watching the Ravens-[Ethnic Slurs] game, I went to a talk at the Newseum given by Madeleine Albright. She was plugging her memoir Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War but she talked about a lot about other current issues as well.

Her primary message was that as a Czechoslovakian refugee from the Nazis who lived through The Blitz as a child she has a unique perspective on the United States’ role in the world. She particularly warns against the American tendency towards isolation. She wonders how the world might have been different if the United States had been at the table during the negotiations between France, Britain and Nazi Germany over the eventual fate of Czechoslovakia.

She had a very nuanced take on the events in Libya. As a former Secretary of State she emphasized that ambassadors are the eyes and ears of the United States in foreign countries. That is why embassies tend to be in the center of capitols where they are tough to defend. She noted that the trend to make embassies fortresses began after embassy bombings during her tenure.

During the Q and A she gave some other interesting observations. When asked about the UN Disability Treaty vote she lamented that it seemed to have been the result of “people who believe the United Nations actually has black helicopters to secretly steal their lawn furniture. Their problem with the UN seems to that it is full of foreigners which is tough to avoid.”

She was also asked about her advocacy for women getting involved in public affairs. She had earlier noted that her father had a bright young student he had inspired to study international diplomacy, one Condalezza Rice, making her father responsible for two of the three female Secretaries of State the US has had. The third is a fellow Wellesley alumna. While she thinks women in power are a force for good she said that “If you think a world run entirely by women would be a good thing, you don’t remember high school.” She also said she would support a pro-choice man over a woman who wasn’t.

Overall, I was very impressed with her expansive knowledge and sly sense of humor. She is a national treasure who should be listened to.

7 Responses

  1. Caption contest: Just what is Maddie saying in this photo?

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  2. “The One That Got Away”

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  3. ” She wonders how the world might have been different if the United States ..”

    Can you elaborate on that?

    (also, great post. thanks. and what were you overall impressions of the newseum? i’ve only been the lunch and dinner at the source)

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  4. nova,
    What Madeline was broadly alluding to was that perhaps Czechoslovakia would not have been surrendered to Hitler quite as quickly if there were some people with Wilsonian ideals in the room as opposed to the realpolitik appeasers from France and Britain. She largely sees America as a force for moral good in the world. She specifically cited as one of our virtues that we do not engage in wars of imperial expansion, with one notable recent exception.

    The Newseum is a great niche organization in that it is fanatically dedicated to trumpeting the praises, warts and all, of an unfettered free press. It works on a couple of levels in that there are a couple of nice big objects, notably a section of the Berlin Wall and the radio mast of the World Trade Center that anchor exhibits. But it can also be like drinking from a fire hose in that there is more than one can see in a single exhibit. They have simply thousands of artifacts in the form or vintage newspapers, video montages, and physical items.

    My wife and I belong as members expressly to have priority to these lecture events. We have seen Dana Milbank, Bob Schieffer, Joel Achenbach among others. Here is a Flickr set of photos I have taken there.

    I may have mentioned here or elsewhere that I am a First Amendment Absolutist and the Newseum is a good fit for those views.

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    • YJ – ACLU supported Citizens United in its lawsuit. Did you?

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      • As a First Amendment Absolutist(tm) I side with George Will in that money is speech and regulating either leads to unintended consequences. I think Citizens United was decided correctly but there need to be better laws governing transparency in campaign financing.

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