Madeleine Albright

* 1937  †︎ 2022

  • "Suddenly there was such a fantastic leader in Czechoslovakia. I was so proud to be born there. And that such a person, not only existed, but that he had philosophical thinking, he thought about what people were supposed to do, he thought politically and above all morally. And I was really proud that he existed. Nowadays everyone thinks that Havel was an exceptional leader who understood what happened before he took the office, what was happening around him and what should happen in the future. His name is carved in history. The only problem is that they keep calling him Váklav - which gets on my nerves. But he really is a man who has a great position, historically. People believe that he did everything he could, and that he really was an exceptional person who understood humanity. When we were all at his funeral, Clinton and I talked about it. What really bothers me that a lot of people in the Czech Republic never truly understood him… Václav Havel understood democracy, he spent time in prison, he wrote wonderfully, he not only understood humanity, but also had big dreams about what can happen when people work together.”

  • “It was really interesting era. It was the end of the Soviet Union, we saw different things than what was happening during the Cold War. We did what we could to make American people understand why we need to cooperate with other countries. I was very proud to work for President Clinton, who understood that and still wanted to build bridges to the 21st century. He thought about what was going to happen and what our chances were in the last years of 1990s. And I always say, 'I was the last Secretary of State of the 20th century and the first one of the 21st century.' The funny part is that I started saying that a few months after my appointment, which was quite daring. I couldn't possibly know if I'd last all four years. But I did. And I had a chance to think about what might happen in the 21st century. Nowadays we don't know what to do with terrorism and what to do with the Nazis. We need to work together, and I hope that what President Biden is aiming for – is to work with our alliances, work together. To have a truly democratic system. Democracy is really fragile, but it has energy. We all have to work together.”

  • “When I talked to Havel, I said, 'When we get off that plane and you give me a kiss, I'll whisper in your ear what Clinton wants to do.' I asked Clinton if he wanted to go to a jazz club, and he said "Yes, of course." So that's what I later told Havel. Then we went to the Prague Castle and it was the first time we heard the Czech and the American National Anthem. Czech anthem is called 'Where is my home' and American anthem says, 'The home of the brave.' It was very emotional for me to hear the two together. Then we went to Reduta that night and they gave Clinton a new saxophone and it was fantastic. Everyone loved it. Then we were at the Prague Castle with Havel. And Clinton said how proud I was to be born in Czechoslovakia. And Havel said, 'And you must be proud that she's American.' And that was a really beautiful moment.”

  • “He was a professor. He was well-known in Denver because he taught there, and when people wanted to know what was happening in communism, they always asked him. He was often in the papers. He died in 1977 and his funeral was full of flowers, and among them there was something that looked like a piano. And I asked my mom, 'Who is this from?' And she said, 'It's from your father's favourite student, Condoleezza Rice.' I find it very interesting that a Czechoslovak diplomat taught two female Secretaries of State. She majored in music at the University of Denver. That's why the flowers looked like a piano. She earned her master's somewhere else and then returned to the University of Denver to do a Ph.D. with my father. Her dissertation was about the Czechoslovak army. So my father was my and Condi's professor.”

  • “I believe Moscow killed communism when they killed what happened in 1968. Because there were many Czechs, both communists and non-communists, who were looking for different ways to reform the system. And Soviets killed it by sending in the tanks. Ten years ago I spoke to Gorbachev and told him what I thought. And he agreed, 'You are right. It was a big mistake, what we did.' ”

  • “I always say I'm a grateful American because they accepted us here. And I have to tell you the interesting part. My father talked about this often. When we were in England during the war, the people were really kind. They always said, 'We are so sorry that your country was handed over to a terrible dictator, we're glad you're here, what can we do to help you and when are you going back home?' And then when we came to America, people came to us and they said, 'We are so sorry that your country is under a terrible communist regime, welcome, what can we do to help you and when will you become citizens?' And that, as my father used to say, is what makes America completely different from other countries. We were very grateful when my father had the chance to apply for all of us to become American citizens. And now I'm calling myself a grateful American.”

  • “One of my memories with Masaryk is from Yugoslavia. I was the little girl who welcomed guests at the airport. I wore a Slovak folk costume and gave flowers. One day Masaryk came and I asked my father, 'Why does uncle Jan always have his right arm as if it were broken?' And my father said, 'Because he doesn't want to shake hands with the Communists.' I also gave flowers to Tito. My mother always liked to do something less formal after a big reception at the embassy. She used to invite people to our residence and she made sausages for them. When she invited Tito, his people said, 'You can't do that, he can't eat just like that.' So my mother bit off a piece of sausage and gave him the other half to eat the same sausage as her.”

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    Washington, 05.05.2021

    délka: 02:07:53
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
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    Washington, 07.07.2021

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I didn´t have a normal life, I grew up being used to constant change

Madeleine Albright in 1947
Madeleine Albright in 1947
zdroj: witness archive

Madeleine Albright (née Marie Jana Korbelová) was born on May 15, 1937 in Prague. She grew up in Belgrade, where her father Josef Korbel held the diplomatic position of press attaché. The Korbel family lived in England during the WWII. Her father worked for the government in exile in London, he was a regular broadcaster at the BBC. After the war, the family moved back to Prague, then again to Yugoslavia. In 1948, they emigrated to the United States, settling in Denver, Colorado. After Kent Denver High School, Madeleine received a scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, followed by a scholarship to Columbia University in New York. In her dissertation, she focused on the role of the Czechoslovak press during the Prague Spring and repeatedly visited Czechoslovakia during her studies. In 1976, she began working in the US Congress, she worked also for President Jimmy Carter. In January 1990, shortly after the Velvet Revolution, she came to Prague, where she established cooperation and friendship with Václav Havel. In 1993, she was appointed United States Ambassador to the United Nations. She served until 1997, when she became the first female US Secretary of State in Bill Clinton‘s government. Madeleine Albright lived in Washington at the time of the filming. Madeleine Albright died on 23th March 2022.