Community & Government

Read My Pins: Stories of Jewelry Box Diplomacy

Secretary Albright became well known for sending messages with her myriad brooches. She shares the origin story of this novel diplomatic tool and anecdotes behind some of her most famous pins.

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Topics include: The Serpent Strikes Back * You’re Bugging Me * Cojones vs. Cowardice * An Eagle Takes Flight * Two Special Hearts * A Toolbox, Complete


[MUSIC PLAYING] ANCHOR: In diplomatic circles, it is well known Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sometimes wears jewelry to send a message. BARACK OBAMA: When Saddam Hussein called her a snake, she wore a serpent on her lapel. ANCHOR: Now a new exhibit is paying tribute to her sense of style. KATIE COURIC: She's not afraid to sometimes wear her heart on her sleeve and a pin on her lapel. [MUSIC PLAYING] - I was at the UN when the ceasefire for Iraq was translated into a series of sanctions resolution. And as an instructed ambassador, it was my job to make sure that all of the resolutions were carried out. So I said something fairly awful about Saddam Hussein practically every day. He deserved it. He'd invaded Kuwait. There was a poem that appeared in the papers in Baghdad comparing me to many things but among them an unparalleled serpent. And so I was-- clearly like jewelry, and I decided I had a snake pin that I would wear it whenever we talked about Iraq. And so what happened was when I went out to meet the press, they said why are you wearing that snake pin, and I said because Saddam Hussein compared me to a serpent. So I thought, well, this is fun. I'm going to develop a new tool in what pins I wear and when. So I went out and I bought a lot of costume jewelry to depict whatever I was gonna do on any given day. So on good days, I wore flowers and butterflies and balloons, and on bad days, I wore carnivorous animals and spiders and things. And the other ambassadors noticed, and they said, you know, what are we gonna do today. Why are you wearing this? And I took a statement that the first President Bush had said read my lips, no new taxes. So I said read my pins. And that's how it all began. I really had an interesting time with them because they did begin to be another tool of sending messages. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I became secretary of state, we found out that the Russians had been bugging the State Department not far from the secretary's office. And we found the guy that was doing it. He was sitting outside listening, et cetera, and we did what diplomats do, which is demarche Moscow to complain about what they were doing. But the next time, I met with the foreign minister, Yevginiy Primakov, I wore this huge bug pin, and he knew exactly what my meaning was. And it really got to be so that the other ministers figured out what I was doing. I had fun with it, and it was a different way to kind of explain things. I had a whole series of pins that had to do with Middle East negotiations. There were snails and crabs and frogs, all that bore something to the way negotiations were going. [MUSIC PLAYING] I thought this was a beautiful bird, my blue bird, and while I was at the United Nations, the Cubans shot down our unarmed Cuban American pilots. My instructions were to get condemnation of the Cubans for what they had done because they really had shot do...

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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