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Good reads at Summit County’s libraries

Mary Tuttle
Special to the Daily

The biography sections in the Summit County libraries are treasure troves of intriguing stories, many on par with the most compelling of novels. Here’s an example: three remarkable women from widely diverse backgrounds take different paths to filling the highest American government post ever assumed by women, that of U.S. Secretary of State. They relate in their own words their stories of proving their worth in the male-dominated arena of international politics and diplomacy, and they give us eyewitness accounts of some of the most dramatic events in recent history.

Madeleine Albright’s “Madam Secretary” recounts her eight years of service in the Clinton administration, first as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and then as the first female Secretary of State. Her experiences cover such important international events as the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and NATO’s humanitarian intervention in Kosovo. Albright brings to life many of the world leaders she dealt with face-to-face in her years of service, e.g., Vaclav Havel (her personal friend and hero), Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, Vladimir Putin, and King Hussein. Her new book, “Prague Winter – A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948,” is a compelling account of the Albright family’s flight from their native Czechoslovakia after the Nazi invasion. Interestingly, her father eventually ended up heading the School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where one of his star pupils was Condoleezza Rice.

Rice, the second woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, began working for George W. Bush as an advisor during the 2000 presidential campaign. Once Bush was elected, she was appointed National Security Advisor and finally Secretary of State. In “No Higher Honor,” Rice describes in detail the events of her eight years of service, which for the most part involved navigating through the different dynamics of the Arab world. The attacks on 9/11 happened on her watch, and she remembers looking in the mirror on that horrific day and wondering what she had missed before the attacks. “I was shaken to the core,” she writes. Saddam Hussein, his suspected weapons of mass destruction, and the war in Iraq are all vividly discussed in this book. Rice also presents a candid description of her difficult relationships with some of her colleagues, most notably Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Hillary Clinton, who is still serving as our nation’s 67th and third female Secretary of State, has obviously not yet written about her experiences in that still-to-be-completed part of her life. But her “Living History,” primarily a memoir of her years as First Lady, covers the wide spectrum of perspectives that helped train her for her current position. She experienced the political/diplomatic world as First Lady, U.S. senator and presidential campaigner. She also expanded her function as First Lady to include a “soft power” role in U.S. diplomacy. In 1995, at the request of the State Department, Clinton traveled to South Asia in an attempt to improve relations with India and Pakistan. Troubled by the plight of people she encountered there, she later delivered an impassioned speech before the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, railing against practices that abused women around the world: “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” That was the start of her journey to an eventual career in diplomacy.

As Secretary of State, Clinton has already dealt with the 2011 Egypt protests, the overthrow by Libyan rebels of the Gaddafi regime and the mission to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. When her term ends, no doubt more details and analysis of recent events will be forthcoming in another autobiographical account by one of America’s remarkable Iron Ladies.


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