Community & Government

Building Relationships

Secretaries Albright and Rice discuss why developing relationships is a crucial diplomatic skill and share humorous anecdotes from their best relationship-building moments throughout the years.

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Topics include: Building Relationships


[MUSIC PLAYING] CONDOLEEZZA RICE: When you're the American Secretary of State, you're representing American interests and the interests, really, of a host of allies around the world. And you always start from that perspective. But it doesn't hurt to know where the other person's coming from and try to establish some ground. And the best way to build a relationship is to do it before you have to ask somebody to do something hard. And so when I first started as Secretary, I was traveling around the world. I made sure that I got to know people. I'd known some of them, of course, from being National Security Advisor. But I found that I had a very good relationship with a man named Sergei Ivanov, who was the Defense Minister of Russia. He loved basketball and sports. And so I'm also a sports fanatic. And so we would often start the conversation with talking about the latest basketball. He loved the NBA. And it helped a little bit to establish that we were both human beings. And it wasn't going to change basic Russian positions, it wasn't going to change my basic positions, but it was going to ease the tension in the room just a little. I will never forget going to Moscow, and the Russians had decided to take us in July to a performance of "The Nutcracker." And it was a little out of season, and it was going to be the beautifully redone Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. And Sergei said to me, do you dislike "The Nutcracker" as much as I do? And I said yes. So we slipped out, and we went to a more modern ballet company and watched them perform. We came back, and we sneaked back in just before the curtain went down. And as I was leaving, Putin said to me, so did you enjoy the ballet? I couldn't lie, so I said, Mr. President, actually Sergei and I left and went someplace else to watch another ballet. And Putin said, why didn't you take me with you? And so I felt you could sometimes have levity in the relationships. But it helped. It helped to try to get people-- to know people as human beings, even though you sometimes had to have very, very difficult conversations with them. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: There are things that happen when you become Secretary of State that you have absolutely no idea that you have to do. There's this ASEAN regional forum that we go. And I had decided I didn't want to go because they had already accepted Burma. And I had put sanctions on them. And they said no, you absolutely have to go. So then somebody in the Department said to me, you do realize that, at this, every country has to put on a skit at the last dinner? And the United States always does very badly. And I said, well, I'm not going to do that. And they said, yes, you have to. So then the State Department gave me lyrics to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or something, and I said, I'm not doing this. And so as we were flying over, my delegation, we figured out that I would sing "Don't Cry for Me, ASEANies." I got dressed up as Madonna. And ...

About the Instructor

Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice stood toe to toe with dictators, counseled presidents, and managed to find common ground on issues that still polarize us today. Sit down with two legendary secretaries of state as they reveal how to build bridges, hold boundaries, and apply history’s lessons to everyday challenges. The class presents an intimate portrait of the late Dr. Albright’s legacy for the next generation.

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Madeleine Albright & Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice teach you to settle differences in everyday life like a diplomat.

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