Pins of Diplomacy: Madeleine Albright Shares Stories Behind Legendary Collection

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A dazzling, historic pin collection has made its way to the Lone Star State, and it belongs to the nation’s former chief diplomat.

Former United States Secretary of State and United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s stunning collection of more than 200 jewels is on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin.

Albright, 80, cut the ribbon on the exhibit on Thursday. She provided a tour for members of the media to share the stories behind each memorable brooch.

“The reason that this show makes sense is that each one of the pins does have some message on foreign policy, and I have always tried to make foreign policy less foreign,” Albright said. “So I think having the stories with it really helps people to understand what we’re doing.”

Albright was appointed to become U.N. Ambassador in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton. He named her secretary of state in 1997, and she served in that capacity until 2001. She said she used the pins as a diplomatic tool in order to create conversation, break the ice, make a point and set the mood for the day.

“Saddam Hussein compared me to an unparalleled serpent,” she said, while showing a snake pin inspired by his remark. “And then I thought, well this is fun, so I went out and bought a lot of costume jewelry to depict whatever I thought we were going to do on any given day.”

Her collection includes patriotic symbols, animals, plants and abstract art. Each has a meaning and a purpose, some she reserved for good days, and others were saved for bad.

An arrow that looked like a rocket allowed her to bring up what the anti-ballistic missile treaty was about with the Russian foreign minister at the time, Igor Ivanov.

A pair of amethyst gems placed together was given to her by a family of a veteran who earned two Purple Hearts.

She wore a lion pin when she met with Syria’s then-President, Hafez Al Assad, whose name translates to “lion.”

“I really did love to wear pins that were patriotic,” she said as she admired a studded American flag.

Her favorite, she claimed, was a heart-shaped pin created by her daughter. “For me it kind of shows how inanimate objects can really carry a lot of meaning.”

Albright compared her approach to the current administration as “subtle.”

“Believe it or not, my approach was actually pretty subtle. And it took a while when you’re sitting with somebody to have a discussion and maybe have them look at the pins and try to figure out what you’re saying. I think the problem with the current approach is that you cannot make serious national security policy with tweets,” she noted.

Despite her concerns with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and their diplomatic ideologies, she said she had faith in future generations, after speaking to a group of high school students in Austin.

“I have faith in the next generation, and I do think that we need to do everything we can to help our educational process, to welcome immigrants, and to recognize what America is about, which is our strength is in our diversity,” she concluded.

The collection is housed at the LBJ Presidential Library until Jan. 21, 2018.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explains the story behind an arrow-shaped pin that she wore to a meeting with Russian diplomats during the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty discussions. Oct. 26, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
A Texas-themed pin belonging to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that she wore to an exhibition showcasing more than 200 jewels in her pin collection on Oct. 26, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
A studded American flag pin belonging to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The piece is part of a collection of more than 200 jewels on display at the LBJ Presidential Library. Oct. 26, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

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