Madeleine Albright First Woman Appointed to US Secretary of State

Madeleine Korbel 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.

When Albright was confirmed as the 64th U.S. Secretary of State, she became the first female U.S. Secretary of State and the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. Not being a natural-born citizen of the U.S., she was not eligible as U.S. Presidential successor and was excluded from nuclear contingency plans. As secretary, Albright reinforced the U.S.'s alliances, advocated democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade and business, labor and environmental standards abroad.

During her tenure, Albright considerably influenced American policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Middle East. She incurred the wrath of a number of Serbs in the former Yugoslavia for her role in participating in the formulation of US policy during the Kosovo War and Bosnian war as well as the rest of the Balkans. But, together with President Bill Clinton, she remains a largely popular figure in the rest of the region, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Croatia. According to Albright's memoirs, she once argued with Colin Powell for the use of military force by asking, "What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can't use it?"

As Secretary of State she represented the U.S. at the Handover of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. She boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of the China-appointed Hong Kong Legislative Council, which replaced the elected one, along with the British contingents.

According to several accounts, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, repeatedly asked Washington for additional security at the embassy in Nairobi, including in an April 1998 letter directly to Albright. Bushnell was ignored. In "Against All Enemies," Richard Clarke writes about an exchange with Albright several months after the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in August 1998. "What do you think will happen if you lose another embassy?" Clarke asked. "The Republicans in Congress will go after you." "First of all, I didn't lose these two embassies," Albright shot back. "I inherited them in the shape they were." Albright was booed in 1998 when the brief war threat with Iraq revealed that citizens were opposed to such an invasion, although this is often overlooked.

In 1998, at the NATO summit, Albright articulated what would become known as the "three Ds" of NATO, "which is no diminution of NATO, no discrimination and no duplication—because I think that we don't need any of those three "Ds" to happen."
In 2000, Albright became one of the highest level Western diplomats ever to meet Kim Jong-il, the communist leader of North Korea, during an official state visit to that country.

In one of her last acts as Secretary of State, Albright on January 8, 2001, paid a farewell call on Kofi Annan and said that the U.S. would continue to press Iraq to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition of lifting economic sanctions, even after the end of the Clinton administration on January 20, 2001.

Madeleine Albright was the first woman ever to hold the post of U.S. Secretary of State. Her father was Josef Körbel, a member of the Czech diplomatic corps; the family escaped the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, and Albright lived in Belgrade, London and Prague before her family settled in Colorado. She earned a political science degree from Wellesley College in 1959, and was later awarded a master's (1968) and doctorate (1976) in public law and government from Columbia University. In 1978 she joined the staff of the National Security Council (under President Jimmy Carter) and began establishing herself as an expert in foreign affairs. President Bill Clinton named her the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1993 and then, in late 1996, named her Secretary of State. She was confirmed in 1997, becoming the first woman ever to hold that post, and served throughout Clinton's second term.