Madam Secretary: A Memoir

by Madeleine Albright

Hardcover, 2003




Miramax (2003), 576 pages


A national bestseller on its original publication in 2003, Madam Secretary is a riveting account of the life of America's first woman Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. For eight years, during Bill Clinton's two presidential terms, Albright was a high-level participant in some of the most dramatic events of our time--from the pursuit of peace in the Middle East to NATO's intervention in the Balkans to America's troubled relations with Iran and Iraq. In this thoughtful memoir, one of the most admired women in U.S. history reflects on her remarkable personal story, including her upbringing in war-torn Europe and the balancing of career and family responsibilities, and on America's leading role in a changing world. With a new epilogue by the author, Madam Secretary offers an inimitable blend of Albright's warm humor, probing insights, and distinctive ideas.… (more)


½ (143 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member SCRH
A facinating and candid memoir of one of the most powerful women in the US government in the 1990's. Whether or not one agrees with her politics, Ms Albright gets high marks for the effort she put forth as Secretary of State during the Presidency of Bill Clinton.

Her accounts of personal, national,
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international, and political events seem to be truthfully told and with good intention.

The book is well-documented. Indexed.
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LibraryThing member Kartoffelkopf3
One of the most influential books I have ever read...
A great model for any woman who ponders how to juggle life, family and a career.
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is a great memoir by an even greater woman. This is an extremely long book so be prepared, but it is worth it as long as you can make it to the end. I did get bored from time to time (mainly due to the length of the monograph) but I learned so much about who Madeleine Albright was and what it
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meant to be "madam secretary". If you want to learn more about her, I definitely recommend this. Just be prepared for it to take awhile.
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LibraryThing member carterchristian1
Essential for an understanding of the Clinton presidency and US foreign relations in the 1990s
LibraryThing member Eamonn12
Madeleine Albrbright was a star in Clinton administration, though there always seemed to be an urge in the media to 'play her down'. Maybe it was because of her rather dull appearance? She says in this book that one of the reasons her husband gave her for divorcing her was that she had become very
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'old-looking'. Certainly she had always a frowning earnestness in her face, and she admits to being, more or less, always like that, even during her days in Kent School in Denver where she founded an 'International Affairs Club' and named herself as its president. There is something very disarming about this admission and about the way she includes a photo of the club members with herself centre stage (as befits a president!).

It is an entertaining and enlightening book and for those who feel that the Rwandan genocide is a stain on the UN and, because of its power, the US, Madeleine does not duck the issue. She details the complications, the UN bickering, the dreadful US experience in Somalia as reasons for that failure to act but does not shirk from admitting that she deeply regrets not advocating that the US take effective action which might have saved thousands of lives. 'Many people would have thought I was crazy and we would never have won support from Congress, but I would have been right, and possibly my voice would have been heard' (p.155). Of course it's easy to express sorrow after the event ('History is written backwards but lived forwards', p.154) but throughout her book she comes across as someone who is sincere and her sincerity is apparent here also. It really was a dreadful chapter in our history as humans on this planet and she is fully aware of this and is deeply saddened by it.

Then the question of her Jewish ancestry. Very vexed. How could she not have known about it, given her refugee background, her father's flight from Europe, & etc.? She writes that she began to receive letters around the time just before her accession to the post of Secretary of State 'which made me think my parents might have been of Jewish ancestry'. (p.222). The media went to town on the story after her nomination. She writes: 'I was made to feel like a liar and my father, whom I adored, was portrayed as a heartless fraud' (p.235). All I can say is that if she genuinely did not know, then it really was a dreadful time for her and she was treated most unfairly. If she did know, it was also a dreadful time and it was her own business. Certainly it had nothing to do with whether or not she was a good Secretary of State, good for the US and good for the world. Which I think she was.

This book is worth reading. It covers a lot of ground, is full of very human insights into the personal life of someone who was at the crossroads of international affairs at a time when some very dark things were happening, and it is written in an easy accessible style, this last quality no doubt due in part her having the collaboration of Bill Woodword.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
An incredibly educational look at a fascinating life - and I highly recommend the audiobook which Albright narrates herself. The focus on this book is certainly on Albright's years as secretary of state under President Clinton, although her entire life is covered. I definitely feel like I have a
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different take on foreign affairs (although I might need to follow-up this book with one by Colin Powell or Condi Rice). I appreciated Albright's straight-faced sense of humor and I would like to explore another of her books - Prague Winter.
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LibraryThing member BefuddledPanda
4.5 stars. This was a long read but it was enjoyable. Albright's humor and writing made the content readable. It was a good balance of history, personal commentary, and reflection. Albright is truly an incredible woman for her dedication to her passions and to serving her country. There is one
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thing all readers can gather from this memoir: this read really showed how human the individual political actors are. It reminded me that presidents, prime ministers, and diplomats in general are all subject to the same emotions we are. We can all throw tantrums and make decisions just to spite others. We all make mistakes and wish we did things differently in hindsight. In short, I enjoyed this memoir because it put a human face to history and politics. They're not just words on a page or a shape on a map. They are people led by individuals who are only human.
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LibraryThing member KarenOdden
An astonishing, engaging story, told in first person from her birth in Czechoslovakia through resignation of her post as Secretary of State under Clinton. I was lucky enough to see Albright when she came to Phoenix as part of the Speakers' Series, and I found her insightful, knowledgeable, and
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adept with the one-liner. ("I was required to wear a bulletproof raincoat ... so big, the material stuck out above my shoulders. I eyed the photographers warily, fearing the caption, 'Madeleine Albright, the Hunchbacked Dame.'") This book was written in collaboration with Bill Woodward (speechwriter), but I heard her voice loud and clear in these pages. I also learned a lot about the policies and our relationships with countries all over the globe and was in awe of her ability to understand the delicate political nuances, how aspects such as the need to "save face" with people back home or backstories going back fifty years shape negotiations. She's also acutely attuned to language. At times there would be a phrase spoken or reported in the newspapers, and I'd think nothing of it, whereas she or one of her advisors would say, "Aha! That changes things." I'd have to read the next paragraph or two to understand why. I appreciate her efforts at building coalitions, including among women at the U.N. and elsewhere. I have to confess I got a bit bogged down by the long section about the middle east, but the situation is so complicated, that was probably inevitable. I love that she includes cartoons that poke fun at herself and photographs that suggest her ability to connect with a wide variety of people. Her husband, who left her for a younger woman doesn't come off so well; and she expresses her disappointment with Clinton over the Lewinsky affair ("I was angry with the President for risking so much for less than nothing"). But she took the advice of Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "When you write your memoirs, remember: do not be angry." It's a long book, but definitely worth the 500 pages. This was a bookclub pick, and though it is my first book by Albright, I will read more. This book was published in 2003, and I will be interested to see how/if two additional decades alter her views or focus.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
Loved this memoir of Madeleine Albright's life. She really covers everything from her childhood in Prague and Europe, her teen years in Colorado, her marriage, her divorce, being a single parent, trying to find her footing as a woman in politics and academia, her time in the U.N., and her role as
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Secretary of State.

I got just a tiny bit bored during some of the minutia about the politics and world events toward the end of the book, but overall this was really good. At its best when she's describing her "real life" vs. her work life.

Original publication date: 2001
Author’s nationality: American, Czech born
Original language: English
Length: 736 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: interested in the topic/life
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LibraryThing member OccassionalRead
I've read a few political autobiographies because a former boss gifted them to her staff each year. She must have been a Republican because they were written by Colin Powell and Donald Rutherford. Despite being a Democrat, I found these books easy to read and enjoyable. But Madeleine Albright's
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Madam Secretary stands head and shoulders above both of these others in its deft balancing of the personal and the political and the often self-deprecating humor she brings to bear. Madeleine Albright was the first female Secretary of State, a remarkable achievement, made all the more impressive by the fact that she was born in Prague and immigrated to the United States as a young girl. Her father was an intellectual diplomat who sought asylum here because he was an ardent anti-communist. While he obtained a university job in Colorado Madeleine nevertheless did not grow up privileged or wealthy (though she did marry into wealth). She always worked very hard to get good grades and ended up getting a full scholarship to Vassar. The book covers her entire career, including her first jobs, but focuses on the last two, namely U.S. Representative to the United Nations and later Secretary of State under Clinton and the major issues in foreign policy during those years including events in Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo, Serbia, China, Russia, and the Middle East. She discusses her friendships and rivalries with other diplomats and heads of state and is honest about her failures as well as her successes. Her discovery, at age 60, that her parents were born Jewish and three of her grandparents perished in the Holocaust is really fascinating. She openly discusses her failed marriage to Joseph Albright and the warmth she feels for her children and grandchildren and friends and colleagues is palpable. You learn a lot about what happened in those years and why certain political decisions were made. And just as importantly, you grow to truly appreciate and feel a kinship with this modest, funny and brilliant woman who achieved so much for herself and the world and gave her best efforts to all she undertook.
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Audie Award (Finalist — 2004)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

576 p.; 6.13 inches


0786868430 / 9780786868438
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