Pins and Diplomacy: Madeleine Albright's Return to Cedar Rapids

By Chris Earl, Reporter

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright tells the stories behind her signature decorative pin collection during a media event at the exhibit: "Read My Pins: The Madeline Albright Collection" at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 17, 2013. The display of 280 pins and the stories behind them is on exhibit until October 27, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

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By Chris Earl

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Madeleine Albright, who served as Secretary of State during second term of President Bill Clinton, is in Cedar Rapids this weekend for the opening of her five-month-long exhibit, "Read My Pins: The Madeline Albright Collection".

The display at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library captures more than 100 pins, each symbolizing a different message when meeting with other foreign leaders.

These messages include a bee with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, an American flag with former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il and even a famous serpent, directed at Iraq's Saddam Hussein after one of the dictator's press agents described her as one.

Secretary Albright, who turned 76 on Thursday, only lived in the former Czechoslovakia for a few years but it remains in her DNA. "I grew up very proud of being a Czechoslovakian and being part of this new country even though I was a little girl," said Albright.

Born two years before Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, the little girl known as Madeleine Korbelova spent the war years in England with the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile.

After the Allied victory, the family returned to Prague and her father, Joseph Korbel, returned to the political scene as the nation's ambassador to Yugoslavia.

Yet the 1948 Communist coup of Czechoslovakia sent the family to its final destination, the United States. Korbel worked as a professor for the University of Denver, raising the family in the Mountain West.

"We were very happy to be here, as free Americans," said Albright.

The ambitious young girl morphed into a driven woman, rising through the political ranks of administrations.

After her four-year assignment as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Albright's achievements culminated with being Secretary of State in January 1997, the first female to serve in that capacity.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will host the display through October 27.

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