Communications Intern 2 posted an articleMadeleine Albright was the first woman to serve as secretary of state of the United States. see more
In her childhood, her family fled tyranny — twice. She went on to become the first woman to serve as secretary of state of the United States.
By Steven Boyd Saum
Photo courtesy Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright was the first woman to serve as secretary of state of the United States. Appointed by President Bill Clinton in January 1997, she had just served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She brought experience as a professor and a mother, she noted — both of which she said helped her speak plainly.
Before that first year as SECSTATE was complete, she had sworn in 32 Peace Corps Volunteers in Zimbabwe, during a seven-nation tour of Africa. A few months later she was in Kyiv, Ukraine, where I had established an office to direct academic exchanges for the U.S. Embassy. Speaking to Ukrainian exchange alumni, Peace Corps Volunteers, and others, she spoke of the danger of resignation and apathy in democracy. “The political choices you make will make a difference in your lives,” she counseled.
It so happened that this conversation took place almost exactly 50 years after a communist coup in her native Czechoslovakia. Cast forward three decades, and amid a time democratic institutions were being undermined here, she would publish a book for U.S. audiences, Fascism: A Warning.
She was personally acquainted with the dangers of authoritarianism. Daughter of Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, she was born Marie Jana Korbelová in 1937. She and her family fled Czechoslovakia in response to the Nazi invasion when little Madlenka was not yet two years old. After the 1948 Communist coup, the family took refuge abroad once more. Her parents also kept a secret from their daughter, one that she didn’t learn until many decades later: She was raised Roman Catholic, but her parents had converted from Judaism after the Nazi takeover. Family members — including three of her grandparents — perished in Auschwitz and other camps. She understood personally the importance of not giving even casual anti-Semitism a pass, even amid policy disagreements with Israel.
As secretary of state, she often spoke of the U.S. as “the indispensable nation.” She became a U.S. citizen at the age of 20 and lauded the generosity of the country — and its responsibilities. She was a staunch advocate for NATO and, as many in the Peace Corps community remember, contributed to the anthology The Great Adventure. For many years she was on the faculty at Georgetown University and taught students the foreign policy toolbox. She died in March at age 84 — one month after she published a piece titled “Putin is Making a Historic Mistake.”
This remembrance appears in the Spring-Summer edition of WorldView magazine.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.
Orrin Luc posted an articleUnderstanding New Diasporas and Transnationality Through the Voices of African Immigrants to KentuckyUnderstanding identities through oral history interviews with 50 Africa-born immigrants in Kentucky see more
Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky
Migration, Identity, and Transnationality
By Francis Musoni, Iddah Otieno, Angene Wilson, and Jack Wilson
University Press of Kentucky
Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum
The heart of this book is based on oral history interviews with nearly 50 Africa-born immigrants in Kentucky — of which there are now more than 22,000. From a former ambassador from The Gambia to a pharmacist from South Africa, from a restaurant owner from Guinea to a certified nursing assistant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, every immigrant has a unique and complex story of their life experiences and the decisions that led them to emigrate to the United States. The geography of stories reaches from Algeria to Zimbabwe, Somalia to Liberia, grouped together with stories of origins, opportunity, struggles, and success, and connecting two continents.
Within scholarship on migration and identity, this book “offers a refreshing step away from existing research on major urban centers that host large populations of African immigrants,” notes a review in the Journal of Southern History. “It is especially relevant to the study of ‘new African diasporas,’ which focuses on African diaspora communities who have arrived directly from Africa in recent decades and whose sense of history, race, and identity is understandably different from the many other African diaspora communities in the United States.” And at a time when migration continues to roil U.S. politics, the book also offers new insights into transnational identity. With that in mind, the final chapter takes as an epigraph an Igbo proverb from Chinua Achebe’s novel Arrow of God: “The world is like a Mask dancing. You do not see it well if you stand in one place.”
The project brought together Angene Wilson and Jack Wilson with historian Francis Musoni, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe and teaches the University of Kentucky; and Iddah Otieno, a professor of English and African Studies who teaches at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and is originally from Kenya.
This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 2, 2022.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.