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Madam Secretary: A Memoir Hardcover – January 1, 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Albright proposes to "combine the personal with policy" in these memoirs, a sensible narrative strategy, considering her emblematic struggles as a working mother breaking through the glass ceiling of the foreign policy establishment to become U.N. ambassador and secretary of state. Albright's recollections of her background as a child refugee from Czechoslovakia and its twin scourges of Nazism and Communism (later, she accounts for the belated discovery of her Jewish heritage) suggest a basis for her belief in "assertive multilateralism." Although she laments coining this derided term, it's an apt name for her doctrine that human rights should be protected by the international community, led by American power. In the Clinton administration, this was the hawkish position, opposed by Colin Powell, William Cohen and others more cautious about military commitments. Albright treats these and other rivalries with restraint, but she is relatively candid about policy and personality conflicts, to an extent unusual in a diplomat and welcome in an autobiographer. Pitched at a popular audience, Albright's anecdotal style is engagingly direct, but it's not suited to mounting a comprehensive defense of humanitarian interventionism in light of failures in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia. Albright is willing to admit mistakes, though she generally pursues the political memoirist's standard agenda of spinning the historical record. Filled with shrewd character sketches of world leaders, Albright's descriptions of the Balkan conflicts, the Middle East peace process and other critical negotiations are thorough and insightful. This memoir captures the disarmingly blunt purposefulness that made its author an irrepressible force in foreign affairs.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


" Albright's deft memoir is the quintessential tale of her transitional generation of middle-class American women." -- The Miami Herald

"A fascinating mix of the official and the unofficial, the political and the personal." -- Rocky Mountain News

"Candid, [she] veers comfortably between the personal and the political. Offers a rare female perspective on diplomatic life." -- Time Out New York

"From mother and socialite to professor and secretary of state...she is frank, assertive...straight-shooting." -- The New York Times

"Her portraits of foreign leaders are lively and evocative...she creates a sense of policy made by real people." -- The New Yorker

"Madeleine Albright has written a different kind of memoir...It's Albright unplugged." -- USA Today

"One of the most diverting political bios in recent memory." -- Entertainment Weekly

"The fascinating story of a remarkable person who has served her country well." -- Dallas Morning News

"Thorough and insightful. Filled with shrewd character sketches of world leaders...Albright's style is engagingly direct." -- Publishers Weekly

"Unlike other memoirs, it has hardly a hint of score settling." -- Time

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax (September 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786868430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786868438
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Madam Secretary" presents the memoirs of Madeleine Albright, the highest ranking woman in the history of U.S. government (despite what conclusions you might have reached about some of the First Ladies, Edith Galt Wilson in particular). During the eight years of the Clinton administration Albright served as U.N. ambassador and then, following the resignation of Warren Christopher, as Secretary of State. Half of "Madam Secretary" is devoted to that period of her life, while the rest tells the story of how a refugee from Czechoslovakia eventually became the first woman Secretary of State in American history and one of the most admired public figures of recent years (she was confirmed 99-0 by the Senate). The result is a book that is both candid and insightful. The memoirs of any Secretary of State are going to be of importance, but "Madam Secretary" is actually a good read.
Madeleine Korbel Albright was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937. Her father was an official in the Czech government-in-exile who fled to London, where she remembers enduring the blitz. Her father served in several diplomatic posts after World War II and when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948 he sent his family to the United States, where he ended up running the School of International Studies at the University of Denver (where one of his prize students was Condolezza Rice). On the personal side of the ledger Albright talks about her marriage to "Newsday" scion Joe Albright, which ended in divorce, raising her three daughters, and learning late in her life that her Jewish grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps.
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Format: Hardcover
So I find myself a bit disagreeable when it comes to extolling Madeleine Albright. So what. ...
I am still fascinated by the chequered career of "Madam Secretary", who came from a Czech refugee family that first fled Hitler and then the communists. After reaching America, her zigzagging life eventually landed her in the upper echelon of American diplomacy and policy-making. This path alone makes this memoir worth every little centimeter of every frayed penny you spend on it.
This is an outspoken work, and it provides a ringside view of a world in unprecedented turbulence. No, I do not think the authors were fawning a political celeb. It contains a colorful portrait of several other big tykes -- the Clintons, Colin Powell, Jesse Helms, Vaclav Havel, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, King Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Slobodan Milosevic, and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Il. All this tirade, whether your polemical filter reconciles with it or not, makes for quite an interesting read.
As regards weaving an intimate and panoramic tapestry of Madeleine's character, well the writing is fluent, tight, and very interesting. I seldom devour politically charged reminiscences with such zeal. It is clearly self-billed as a "memoir, so I did not expect it to be a highly objective analysis of political stances, if there were such a beast to begin with.
In my book, this comes highly recommended. Will definitely not bore you if that is any consolation. Come to think of it, I guess it also makes for a great movie theme.
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By A Customer on September 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Madeleine Albright comes across in this book as an enormously genuine, honest and affable person - qualities one does not expect in the upper echelons of government, or in business for that matter. Her advice was always level headed and was delivered with only her nation's and the world's peoples interest at heart.
I had the good fortune to sit next to Ms. Albright on an airplane trip back from Korea and I can tell you from that brief encounter that she is the genuine article. We sadly miss her involvement in government given the state of world affairs today.
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Format: Hardcover
In winding up her far-ranging autobiography, Madeleine Albright tells us with amusement that once, after leaving office as U.S. Secretary of State, she was mistaken in public for Margaret Thatcher.
It's worth a chuckle to the reader --- but there are indeed interesting similarities between the two women, even though their political leanings are light-years apart. They both reached the highest rank ever attained by a woman in their respective democratic governments, were fiercely partisan political figures, and held very strong opinions and were never afraid to battle for them (Albright's favorite expression for this is that she never hesitated to "push back" at those who opposed her).
Albright is best known for serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN in the first Clinton term, and as Secretary of State in the second. Readers of this book will learn in detail about the early years and long political apprenticeship that led up to those two high-profile jobs. They will also learn, in perhaps more detail than they care to absorb, about the many foreign policy crises in which she was a major player under Clinton.
The other thing about Albright that most people will recall is that only after she became Secretary of State did she learn that her family ancestry was Jewish --- that three of her grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps. This personal revelation is duly covered but not dwelled upon in extraordinary detail.
Her life, though unsettled due to wartime exigencies, was not a rags-to-riches tale. She was born Marie Jana Korbel in Prague into a comfortably situated family. Her father was a respected Czech diplomat and college professor. Fleeing the Nazis, the family spent time in England during World War II.
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