The secret to keeping tabs with Madeleine Albright’s diplomatic career lies in her accessories, said the former U.S. secretary of state and Mortara distinguished professor of diplomacy in the School of Foreign Service in an event held Monday afternoon in Gaston Hall.

Introducing her newest book, “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box,” Albright explained her motivation behind publishing this unconventional take on multifaceted international issues.

“The whole project with the book and the pins has really two purposes. First, to entertain, and the second is to highlight the many different dimensions of diplomacy,” Albright said. “Usually, when we think about an American secretary of state, we really envision high-level meetings with handshakes and important documents and so on, and my predecessors did in fact appear at such meetings in their fancy suits and power ties, not to mention, in some cases, whiskers and beards, and when I took office, I thought it was time, and the right time, to display pins with attitude.”

Albright’s habit of wearing select pins to reflect certain moods began during President Bill Clinton’s first term, soon after she received a cool reception from another person seated at the negotiating table. Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq, referred to Albright, who was the American ambassador to the United Nations at the time, as an “unparalleled serpent” in what she described as “what may well be history’s worst poem.”

“When someone writes a poem about you, it’s only polite to respond,\” Albright said. “I thought I might show my appreciation by wearing a serpent pin to a meeting with Iraqi officials.”

The Iraqi press picked up on the gesture at the next press conference, bringing international attention to her good humor.

“And then I thought, `Well, this is fun,’ so I went out and I bought a lot of costume jewelry that I thought would reflect what we were going to do on any given day. So on good days, I wore flowers and butterflies and balloons, and on bad days, I wore various kinds of insects and carnivorous animals,” Albright said.

A museum exhibit featuring the pin collection circulated through select museums around the country for much of the last year. The exhibit’s title was the same as her novel’s, which was inspired by a former U.S. president’s promise uttered at the 1988 Republican National Convention.

“I picked up on a line that the first President Bush had used when he said, `Read my lips: no new taxes,’ I said, `Read my pins,’ and so that’s how it started,” Albright said.

Albright said that while her use of unique brooches as implements of diplomacy may be unorthodox, it has its advantages. She said she appreciates the way that her pins make international affairs more understandable to a wide variety of audiences.

“Jewelry does have its own language, and it’s universal. There’s no need for an interpreter, and it can also be a lot of fun,” Albright said.

Following Albright’s speech about the book, the audience was invited to participate in a question-and-answer session and a book signing with Albright. The first audience member to step up to the microphone didn’t hesitate to ask about the significance of the large black and white frog pin that was perched on the left shoulder of Dr. Albright’s bright green jacket that day.

“Well, I’ll tell you what happened is that most of my pins are now in the museum, so I’ve gotten new pins that I call `pity pins,’ because people are definitely feeling sorry for me for being bereft,” said Albright. “I love frogs, and frogs, I think, are good luck, and I thought that I knew it was going to rain, and so I thought it would be kind of fun to wear a green jacket with a frog.”

The event was sponsored by the School of Foreign Service’s Mortara Center for International Studies.

According to Adam Olszowka, vice president of the Mortara Center, the Mortara Center holds an event with Secretary Albright each year.”

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