(WOMENSENEWS)–1996. Madeleine Korbel Albright was nominated by President Clinton as secretary of state, becoming the highest ranking woman in the U.S. government.

Albright was the first woman to hold the post, succeeding 63 men. She served two terms with Clinton.

She has said that she believes a woman will be president “sooner rather than later.”

Albright has a reputation for toughness and understanding of the military that stems from her appointment as ambassador to the United Nations in 1993. Asked how her gender has affected her ability to do her job, she has said, “I represent the U.S. and as such I am treated as the U.S. representative. Gender doesn’t matter.”

Albright’s understanding of international relations began at an early age, as her family dodged tyranny twice over. Born in Prague, in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia), Albright and her family fled to England in 1939 to escape the Nazi occupiers of the central European nation. They retuned home after the war, but fled again in 1948, this time to the United States after the Soviet takeover in Czechoslovakia.

It wasn’t until much later in her life, in 1997, that Albright discovered that her family had originally fled Prague in 1939 not for political reasons, but because her family was Jewish. She had been reared as a Roman Catholic.

Prior to her post as secretary of state, Albright was both a scholar and a politician, having worked at non-profit organizations and as a university professor. She was director of the Women in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

During the 1980s, her Washington, D.C., home was a virtual salon for Democratic politicians and thinkers. Some of her policies were subject to intense criticism; however, her in-depth mastery of the details of international political strife impressed nearly all who dealt with her.

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