February 2011, Volume 15, Number 1


Albright Shares Power of Her Pins

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright’s personal collection of more than 200 pins, collected during her time as U.S. Secretary of State, will be on display this spring at Miami Dade College’s historic Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.

The exhibition, which opened in 2010 at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., will open at MDC on Feb. 23 and remain on display through April 30. Also on Feb. 23, Albright will speak at the Miami Leadership Roundtable at the Freedom Tower.

The exhibition examines Albright’s collection for its historical significance and the expressive power of jewelry. During her tenure, she used the pins to communicate messages.

“I found that jewelry had become part of my diplomatic arsenal,” said Albright, who in 1997 became the first female Secretary of State in U.S. History. “When President George H.W. Bush became known for saying, ‘Read my lips,’ I urged colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.’”

The collection never would have come to pass had it not been for Saddam Hussein. When Albright criticized the dictator, his poet in residence called her “an unparalleled serpent.” Shortly thereafter, while preparing to meet with Iraqi officials, Albright pondered what to wear. She decided to make a diplomatic statement by choosing a snake pin.

Although her method of communication was new, her message was as old and clear as the American Revolution: Don’t tread on me.

From that day forward, pins became part of Albright’s diplomatic signature, and that serpent pin is a highlight of both the exhibition and her most recent book, Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box. International leaders were pleased to see her with a shimmering sun on her jacket or a cheerful ladybug; less so with a crab or menacing wasp. Albright used pins to emphasize the importance of a negotiation, signify high hopes, protest the absence of progress, and show pride in representing America, among other purposes.

Now Albright brings her collection to a city she has an affinity for – Miami.

“Ever since I wore my bird pin with its head pointing down, in mourning for the free-spirited Cuban-American pilots who were shot down by the Cuban regime, I have had a special relationship with Miami,” Albright said. “I am honored to exhibit my collection at Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower, and I am looking forward to meeting with students who may be the American diplomats of tomorrow.”

— WV

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