|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by Cokie Roberts of ABC's "This Week"
December 31, 2000, Washington, DC
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION: Now looking back on these last very interesting years, I read one senior US diplomat said Madeleine Albright is driven by her own biography; she raises the sights to historic and moral issues.
Do you think that's true?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, everybody is driven by their own biography, and mine is -- I hate to sound this old, but it's kind of a replica of a lot of the 20th Century. And I have believed that the history of the 20th Century has been marked by terrible bloodletting and horrible things that have happened in many parts of the world, and that when the United States stood back, terrible things happened. And when the United States got involved, either by example or by direct involvement, it has made a difference.
And I believe that, as a superpower, the United States has responsibilities that come with our national interest. So to that extent, yes, I have been driven by my biography.
QUESTION: Now, the place that we most starkly saw it was in the Balkans. In Colin Powell, your designated successor's book, he talks about you saying, "Why have a military if we're not going to use it," and that he almost had an aneurysm, quoting him.
Are you worried that this, what you've tried to put in place, will go away?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the interesting part as I'm about to turn over this incredible position is that we picked issues up from the Bush Administration, and President Bush had said that one of the things that was his goal was to have a Europe that was united. He brought about the unification -- reunification -- of Germany, and the piece that was really missing was the Balkans. President Clinton not only saw the importance of unifying Europe, but what it meant in terms of our relationships with Russia and the Middle East to get the Balkans into place.
And as it turns out, the use of force in the Balkans made a difference. America made a difference. And I would hope very much that the next administration would understand that this is a huge victory for Europe and therefore for us, and that it needs a sustained support. These stories don't happen in four-year terms.
QUESTION: Given the Powell Doctrine about not going in without substantial force and a clear exit, do you think that will happen?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think they have said that they would consult with our allies before doing anything rash, and I would hope that they would do that because I've spent an awful lot of time talking to our allies. This is a joint effort. There are those who feel that the Europeans have not done their share. They have. They are there with larger numbers of forces, and they are really helping on the economic reconstruction.
But I think it would be a huge error for us to kind of say, okay, we're finished with this. And I think in the discussions that I've had with Colin Powell, I think they see that you can't just up and leave.
QUESTION: One of the other things of course that you've brought to the job is to be the first woman to ever do it, and you have tried to put women's issues into the foreign policy agenda. Have you been able to do that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, and I'm very pleased about that because we have made women's issues not something peripheral, but central, and central for a number of a reason. Countries where women for the most part are more than half the population in most countries, if women -- we -- are well placed and are able to be a part of the economy, it makes those countries more stable. And so we have tried very hard through development programs and micro-enterprise to do more for women.
QUESTION: And how has that been received?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Very well, actually. And there is kind of a network of women that came out of Beijing that worked together to get those policies into place.
QUESTION: And how have you found that just being a woman is received, both here and abroad? Is it different?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's different. Actually, it's easier in many ways abroad because I represent the United States, and in many ways it doesn't matter who represents the United States because it is the United States.
On the other hand, I think that as I review my own tenure and others', I think in many ways it has been an advantage to be a woman. I think I have developed a reputation for telling it like it is but, at the same time, showing humanity. And I love being a woman so I flirt a bit and, you know, it's not so hard for some foreign minister who is mad to send me roses and then kiss me on both cheeks, and we move right along.
QUESTION: There is a story of you running after Arafat to keep him from leaving peace talks in Paris, and you finally getting him and sort of sweet-talking him back into the talks. Can you tell us that story?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this was a very, actually, tense time as we were trying to get one phase of these very difficult talks going. And I had been in another room talking with Prime Minister Barak, and Chairman Arafat felt that he had enough of sitting in a room waiting and so he left. And we were in the residence at our Embassy in France, which is a great place but has a cobblestone courtyard.
And all of a sudden, I was told that Arafat was leaving and so I started running after him yelling, "Close the gates, close the gates." And it really was like something out of a movie. And they closed the gates, I mean literally, two seconds before he was about to get out of them. And then I got in the car and I told him this is really important and got him back in.
QUESTION: Was all this in high heels?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: All in high heels, and hoping that I wouldn't fall on my face.
QUESTION: Do you think that as a woman in the cabinet that you were in a particularly delicate situation during the President's scandal and the impeachment?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it was a difficult time for everybody. The President has said it was difficult. I found it a time that, personally, I am really very grateful to the President. I think he has been a fantastic president.
QUESTION: Did you feel betrayed at all?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it was not a pleasant time, but I think that President Clinton is going to be remembered for his initiatives, both in domestic and foreign policy. And in foreign policy, Cokie, I've got to tell you that it did not have any effect. In fact, most of the people -- countries that I dealt with -- thought we were nuts.
QUESTION: Your successor, in the same way that you were the first woman, will be the first African American. Will there be things that he can do for minorities in this job in the same way you have tried to put women's issues on the agenda?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. And we have -- first of all, I have to tell you that we're very good friends, despite some of the policy issues that have come up, and we've done a lot of talking about this already. It's the most amazing symbol of America that the first female Secretary can be followed by the first African American. And I am very, very glad that he will do that.
QUESTION: Among the many things that happened during these years, personally you learned of Jewish roots that you did not know about, and you talked about wanting to have some time eventually to think about that and connect in some way. Do you think you'll do that now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I will, because I'm going to write a book and I'm going to deal with various aspects of my story as it reflects the 20th Century, and obviously that's going to be a part of it. But it's very interesting. You know, I went back to the Czech Republic the summer after I heard about this and had already begun to connect and reconnect, and I'm in touch with various people, but I will have time to reflect on it all as I write my book.
QUESTION: And you went to the synagogue there, which must have been quite a moment when you actually saw your grandparents' names.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely. It was one of those -- I don't even know how to describe it to you, Cokie. But seeing their names and realizing that if my parents hadn't done what they had, our names would be up there too, is a stark moment. I don't know how to say it other than that.
QUESTION: And one of the things you've said is that now that you're a grandparent that you understand that you were loved by them in a way that you never knew. Is time with these grandchildren going to be part of the future?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You bet. And it's a great part. Of course, they have to get used to the fact that they have an ordinary grandmother. They have kind of thought that it was, you know, their grandmother they see on television and run up to the TV, I've been told. And now they're just going to have a nice, ordinary grandmother with a lap.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. Thanks for being with us.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Cokie.
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