As a professor, author, international democracy organization chair, U.N. ambassador – not to mention America’s 64th secretary of state and highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government at that time – Madeleine Albright has played a role in nearly every major foreign policy debate of our time. Along the way, she’s learned lessons, gained insights and managed to keep her sense of humor. On September 16, Albright discussed her latest book, “Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir,” with McCain Institute Executive Director Mark Green. The discussion was the second installment of the Institute’s Authors & Insights Book Talk Series, which examines America’s challenges and authors’ insights on how to meet them.
“I do think that democracy is difficult, there’s no question. We are proving that, and other countries are, but it doesn’t in any way devalue the fact that people do want to be able to live in a country where they have something to say. And I do love doing the National Democratic Institute work, which is always in demand in many ways, and more complicated. One of the things I’ve been saying more and more is: ‘democracy has to deliver’. And there’s always the question about how political and economic powers play together. I know in graduate school you argue that all the time and ultimately I say they have to go together because people want to vote and eat.”
“I’m often asked who are the people I admire the most. I used to have three of them, I only have two at this point, and you’ll understand in a minute, who is: people who forgave their jailers and were able to move on. Aung San Suu Kyi used to be one of them but her behavior now has taken her off my list. It’s Mandela and Václav Havel and really being able to understand what needed to be done to move his country people forward and never lost his humility or his realistic approach to what could be done, and writing about the power of the powerless, and really understanding what could be done for his country, and he was a moral leader. And I was so delighted when his bust was put in the capital, and I was there and it really was a very, very moving event.”
“Well I have to say, I say this even when I’m not sitting with you and looking at two McCain cups, he is one of the people that I admire greatly for his service to our country, both in the military and then on The Hill, and our friendship. I think we had a genuine friendship and I miss it. I think of the various things that we did- I’d love taking people to my hometown and Prague is a truly beautiful city- and we went there to observe the election in the Summer of 1990 and we went to the headquarters of Charter 77 which was kind of the organization, we also were in the streets a lot and were able to see the genuine joy of people to finally be a free country, and to have a remarkable leader like Václav Havel, and to have people think that it was a remarkable country, and you could just feel it, and the pleasure of them going to vote. But it really was more than moving to go to the headquarters with John and then sing “’We Shall Overcome.'”