Immigrant Profile: Madeleine Albright


Madeleine Albright is remembered as the United States’ first female Secretary of State. She was born in 1937 as Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Her parents were Anne and Josef Korbel, a Czech Jewish diplomat who had fled the country with his family because of the Nazi invasion.

Immigration to the United States

Their flight ended first in England. After WWII the family moved back to Prague, but after communism overtook most of Eastern Europe, Josef Korbel had to make other arrangements for his family. The family relocated to Colorado in 1948, and Josef Korbel went to work as a professor at the University of Denver. Madeleine attended Kent Denver School (where, in 1955, she formed the school’s first international relations club), and then attended Wellesley College on full scholarship; she earned her degree in political science in 1959. Shortly after, she married, had three children, began working in politics, and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at Columbia University.

Professional Background & Achievements

Albright’s professional career in politics began in 1972 when she became an assistant for the Democratic presidential candidate from Maine, Senator Edmund Muskie. Muskie did not receive the nomination, but in 1976 hired Albright as his chief legislative assistant in his senatorial office. Starting in 1978, she worked in the White House for the National Security Council’s liaison to the U.S. Congress. Hired as a professor of political science at Georgetown University in 1982, she was, throughout the 1980s, a major foreign relations advisor to Democratic candidates.

When Bill Clinton was elected U.S. president in 1992, Albright was appointed to manage the administration at the National Security Council. In 1993, she was appointed the ambassador to the United Nations and then the U.S. secretary of state in 1997. In this position, she represented the United States in the transfer of sovereignty to Hong Kong, worked hard on peaceful resolutions in the Middle East, and even worked with communist leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il. Her term as secretary of state ended in 2001, when the presidential election turned the White House over to a Republican president.

Contributions to the U.S. Economy

Albright’s contributions to the United States in global diplomacy have had great impact in a number of areas of international relations. In 2011, she became part of the advisory council at The Hague Institute for Global Justice. She held the office as a top advisor on national security issues to President Barack Obama, who later awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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