January 8, 2012 by staff
Madeleine Albright, Madeleine Korbelov Albright born May 15, 1937 is the first woman to become a United States Secretary of State. She was appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, and was unanimously confirmed by a U.S. Senate vote of 99-0. She was sworn in on January 23, 1997.
Albright now serves as a Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. Her PhD is from Columbia University. She holds honorary degrees from Brandeis University (1996); the University of Washington (2002); Smith College (2003); University of Winnipeg (2005); the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2007), and Knox College (2008). Secretary Albright also serves as a Director on the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Albright is fluent in English, French, Russian, and Czech; she speaks and reads Polish and Serbo-Croatian as well.
Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelov? (Czech pronunciation: [?ˆmar??j?› ?ˆjana ?ˆkorb?›lova??]) in the Sm?chov district of Prague, Czechoslovakia. At the time of her birth, Czechoslovakia had been independent for less than twenty years, having gained independence from Austria after World War I. Her father, Josef Korbel, was a Czech Jewish diplomat and supporter of the early Czech democrats, Tom Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Bene??. She was his first child with his Jewish wife, Anna (née Spieglov?), who later also had another daughter Katherine (a schoolteacher) and son John (an economist).
At the time of Albright’s birth, her father was serving as press-attaché at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Belgrade. However, the signing of the Munich Agreement in March 1938 and the disintegration of Czechoslovakia at the hands of Adolf Hitler forced the family into exile because of their links with Bene??. Prior to their flight, Albright’s parents had converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. Albright spent the war years in England, while her father worked for Bene??’s Czechoslovak government-in-exile. They first lived on Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill, London, where they endured the worst of The Blitz, but later moved to Beaconsfield, then Walton-on-Thames, on the outskirts of London. While in England, a young Albright appeared as a refugee child in a film designed to promote sympathy for all war refugees in London.
Albright was raised Catholic, but converted to Episcopalianism at the time of her marriage in 1959. Albright did not learn until late in life that her parents were Jewish and that many of her Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia had perished in The Holocaust, including three of her grandparents.
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