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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on CBS-TV "60 Minutes
Washington, D.C., February 9, 1997
Pre-taped on January 31 and February 2, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, February 10, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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MR. ED BRADLEY: Madeleine Albright has been on the job for a few weeks now and Washington is already used to the idea of addressing the country's top diplomat as Madam Secretary. But when we dropped in on the new Secretary of State last week, we found she's still getting used to the idea.
Do you ever pinch yourself?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Every morning. (Laughter) Sometimes you wake up and think "well, I just had a nice dream, do you think it's really true?" It's a little bit like that. Somebody said to me early on, do you realize that you have Thomas Jefferson's job? A little awe there.
MR. ED BRADLEY: There's John Marshall.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. This entire hall is filled with former Secretaries of State and that gives you a great sense of history and to think that I'm now at the end of this line.
MR. ED BRADLEY: What do you want people to know about you?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Actually, I want them to know everything about me. I am somebody who likes to have people know about me. I am not a secretive person.
MR. ED BRADLEY: One thing about Albright that is no secret is that she came to America as a child, a refugee whose family fled Czechoslovakia twice, first from the Nazis, then from the Communists. But there were some things about her life that even Albright didn't know until just a few days ago.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: With the opening up of Czechoslovakia and with my naming as Secretary of State, there has been some very compelling information
that The Washington Post found, that my family was indeed of Jewish origin and that
my grandparents may, in fact, have died in a concentration camp.
MR. ED BRADLEY: And this was all unknown to you?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Totally. I was raised a Catholic and my parents were very political, and saw the story as one or their explanation to us was that they left for political reasons.
MR. ED BRADLEY: What Albright claims she just learned is that two and possibly three of her grandparents were rounded up by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz, where they died. At the time, Albright, her sister and parents were refugees in London. Her parents never told her that they had converted to Catholicism in the 30s. They only told her that her grandparents had died in the war.
This new chapter in her family history has come as a surprise to Albright, who had been very close to her parents, particularly her father, Josef Korbel, a Czech diplomat who was serving at the United Nations in 1948 when the Communists took over in Prague.
Were you very serious as a young girl, a young woman?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, I was. I remember the war distinctly. We were in London during the blitz. I remember what it was like to come out of the air raid shelter and see London bombed. Then I was sent to school in Switzerland by myself when I was ten. So, I was pretty serious. I think I was pretty boring in high school. I was a foreign policy wonk even then.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Your sister says you're a lot more fun now.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think I am. I think I am. I hope I am.
MR. ED BRADLEY: I know that fun for you is working hard, but you have to do something to get away from this.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have a farm not far from here and nobody would ever recognize me on the farm as I play around in my garden barefooted, and I go to the movies, and I knit. But, there's an awful lot to do.
MR. ED BRADLEY: You're having fun at it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. So far, so good.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Young Madeleine Korbel as a new immigrant tried to have fun too, but her father maintained a certain "old world" outlook.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Believe it or not, my father used to follow me on dates. He would let the poor boy drive me to the dance, follow us, and then insist that we be driven home. To this day, I will never forget the mortification -- when he made me get into his car while my date followed me home, then invited this poor boy in for milk and cookies. I didn't see that boy again.
MR. ED BRADLEY: And a chat with him?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That too. (Laughter)
MR. ED BRADLEY: Albright says she tried to be less protective when raising her three daughters. They were there in the Oval Office last month holding the family bible when Albright was sworn in as Secretary of State -- a senior Cabinet member and the country's top diplomat.
In her new job, Madeleine Albright is moving straight ahead in Washington's fast lane. But she's been in the public eye for the last four years when she served as Ambassador to the United Nations. There she stood out from the pin-stripe crowd. How many times have you seen the macarena at the Security Council?
You certainly weren't the typical diplomat at the United Nations. You were known for being outspoken, some even said that you were at times undiplomatic. Is that just the way you are? Or, was that a deliberate tactic?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I truly do believe it's important to say what you think.
MR. ED BRADLEY: And Albright often did exactly that, in the usually stuffy confines of the UN. She told off the French. "The comments by the French defense minister are very ill-informed and counterproductive." She warned Saddam Hussein. "Let it be absolutely clear to the Iraqi government that a repetition of its past mistakes will be met by my government, with the same resolve as before." She threatened Haiti's military leaders. "You can depart voluntarily and soon, or you can depart involuntarily and soon."
And she used an undiplomatic Spanish word to express her contempt for the way Cuban fighter pilots boasted about shooting down two unarmed American civilian planes last year. "Frankly, this is not cohones, this is cowardice." Her boss, President Clinton, called that the best one-liner in his Administration's foreign policy. And it reflected something else that's different about Madeleine Albright. She's willing -- her critics say too willing -- to send American troops into foreign conflicts. She backed using American military force in Haiti, in Somalia, in Rwanda, and in Bosnia.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Rather than feeling that it is wrong to interfere, I always believed that if you can stop something early, and you can show the support of free countries for those who were under totalitarianism, then it's worth doing. That's my mindset.
MR. ED BRADLEY: There are a lot of people who would read that as your willingness to put American military men and women in harm's way.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The ability of America to marry force and diplomacy is something that is very important to the maintenance of our values. I think we have to be very, very selective when we think about using our military, but we can't be afraid to.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Diplomacy was not in her career plan in college. She covered politics for the student newspaper and wanted to become a journalist. Three days after graduation in 1959, she married Joseph Albright, a reporter and heir to a newspaper fortune. But his job stood in her way.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: One of my husband's editors actually said to me, "Honey, you may want to be a reporter, but you can't be on a competing paper and you can't be on the paper that your husband works on, so why don't you find another career?" And I did. And I didn't fight it.
MR. ED BRADLEY: So, you could have been a journalist.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I could have.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Could have ended up covering the State Department.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I could have. I could have asked nasty questions.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Do you get peeved at all when people focus on appearance rather than substance?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: When it is noted what I have on, or whether I'm going to have a face lift - I think that kind of gets me down. I haven't had a face lift, by the way. (Laughter)
MR. ED BRADLEY: Albright had her first children -- twins -- in 1961, but she was determined to have a career as well. She went to graduate school and got involved in politics. She worked on Capitol Hill for then-Senator Ed Muskie, then moved to the Carter White House as an aide to the National Security Council.
When you went to work for Senator Muskie -- your first paying job -- you were 39 years old. You must have felt you had a lot of catching up to do. Did you have a plan?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I never had a plan. And I've said this to a lot of young women -- is that the only plan I ever had was to try to use the knowledge that I had, work hard and have a good time -- my version of good time.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Which is?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Which is to work hard. (Laughter) And make a difference, as hokey as that might sound.
MR. ED BRADLEY: If Albright's professional life had a hokey, story-book quality, not so her personal life.
What would you say was the greatest setback in your life?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, a diversion from plan, I must say, was my divorce -- in that I had not expected it. I had expected to continue in what I was doing and live happily ever after.
MR. ED BRADLEY: You didn't see it coming?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I certainly did not, no.
MR. ED BRADLEY: Did that change you in some way? Did you become more determined? Did you feel you had something to prove?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I think it made me more self-reliant, though. I think if it taught me anything, it was to rely on my own judgment and to do what I needed to do for my daughters and for myself.
MR. ED BRADLEY: After the break-up of her 23-year marriage, Albright got a job teaching international relations at Georgetown University in Washington. But she tried to teach the women in her classes something else.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: To interrupt. I found that as a woman, kind of working my way up in the government, was that women often wait too long in meetings to make their views known. Then all of a sudden, some man says whatever it is that you were going to say and everybody thinks it's brilliant. So, I basically taught people never to raise their hands and interrupt. And I think that's what women need to do.

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