Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, a longtime Georgetown resident, was honored by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History with its inaugural Great Americans award in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Madeleine Albright is the first woman to serve as United States Secretary of State. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton in December 1996 and confirmed the next month by a U.S. Senate vote of 99-0. At that time, she became the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. She is currently a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and serves as a director on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The award ceremony at the museum included a conversation on stage with Albright and David Rubinstein, a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents. Albright, whose father was in Czechoslovakia’s diplomatic service, recounted her life fleeing the Nazis, living in London during the ‘Blitz’ and returning to her homeland before fleeing again in 1948 after the Communist takeover, this time to the U.S.
Albright was presented with a newly minted museum medal that “recognizes lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas,” along with a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s desk. Dr. David J. Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; and John Gray, director of the National Museum of American History, made the presentations.
The presentation medal, cast in 1.85 oz. of fine gold in Wisconsin, features an American eagle with rays of the sun on the obverse with the words, “Great Americans” and “National Museum of American History” struck around the image. The reverse side honors one of the museum’s most important treasures, the Star-Spangled Banner, and includes the mission of the Smithsonian: “For the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The design of the medal was inspired by $20 gold pieces designed by famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens from the museum’s National Numismatic Collection.
The Great Americans award, which will be presented annually to up to four recipients, will next go to another former secretary of state, Colin Powell, later this year.
*View our photos of Madeleine Albright receiving the Great Americans award at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History by clicking on the photo icons below. All photos by Jeff Malet.*