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Albright keeps Naperville crowd pinned to their seats
By Marco Santana | Daily Herald Staff

Madeleine Albright


Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright looks on during a meeting with Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud at the Ministry of Interior, in Beirut, Lebanon earlier this year.


Associated Press

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Published: 10/9/2009 12:03 AM

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Forgive Madeleine Albright if talk of her fashion at one time irritated her.

As the first female U.S. secretary of state, she had stared down foreign leaders, chastised those who then-President Bill Clinton felt deserved it and played a lead role in foreign relations during Clinton's administration.

However, an incident with Saddam Hussein put the focus on what she wore just as strong as on what she did. In 1994, after Hussein branded her an "unparalleled serpent," Albright wore a snake pin. Fifteen years later, her latest book talks of that decision and the use of pins in diplomacy throughout her career.

"This really did become identified with me," she said before a presentation Thursday. "It's kind of a mixture in terms that I find it irritating when you comment on what a woman who is a public official wears and never comment on what a man wears."

However, she acknowledged that the pins did serve a purpose.

"By having the pins, I called attention to what I was doing," she said. "But everybody has their own style."

Albright, 72, was in Naperville on Thursday to promote her new book, "Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat's Jewel Box." About 450 people filed into North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall as she spoke about her time as ambassador to the U.N. and as secretary of state as well as advice she gave incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I told her it's better than being president because you don't have to worry about health care," she said. "But she said, 'I love health care.'"

But her discussion Thursday revolved around her pins. As she received word that her snake pin had drawn rave reviews, she began choosing them carefully.

"I thought, 'Well, this is fun,'" she said. "I really did have a good time of it."

Albright served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. During her tenure, she contributed to American policy toward the former Yugoslavia. In recent years, she has remained in the public eye, last year calling the Iraq war "the greatest disaster in American foreign policy."

A predominantly pro-Albright crowd asked questions Thursday that ranged from her thoughts on the greatest threat to national security - a country's fear and self-doubt - to her thoughts on the current health care debate: "It's not a matter of debt versus health care. We just have to make it work."

The visit was arranged by Anderson's Books in downtown Naperville. Publicity Coordinator Candy Purdom said she received swarms of calls when it was first announced that Albright would speak.

"We appreciated the enthusiasm," she said. "You have to give credit to the community."

So which pin did Albright wear to the speech in Naperville? A large fly.

"To show that I'm not just a fly-by-night in this particular area," she said. "I love the Chicago area."

Pinned: 'It's not a matter of debt versus health care,' Albright says