Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joined the TODAY show Tuesday to talk about her new book, “Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership.”
In a 13-minute conversation with TODAY producer Dan Fleschner, Albright discussed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, what’s on her iPod, and with whom she goes to the movies. (You’ll be surprised.)
DF: When you first heard about or saw the news about Senator Clinton’s “tearing up” yesterday, what was your reaction?
Madeleine Albright: My reaction was that this was a very true part of Hillary, who is very concerned about what is happening to the people of America in terms of health issues and how the American public is. And also—because we’ve talked about it—how concerned she is about what has happened to America’s reputation.
So for me, it was a very real moment of hers. And it showed her genuine caring about the issues that she knows that as president she’ll have to deal with.
DF: So you weren’t surprised to see her let her guard down like that in public?
MA: Not really. I’m not the right person to ask, in many ways, because I know her very well. I know what a caring and compassionate person she is. I know how important this is to her that she have the opportunity to try to deal with the problems.
DF: Can you relate at all to what she’s going through...being in the public eye like that...is there any time from your career that is at all analogous to what happened yesterday?
MA: We all have different ways of showing this, but there definitely were times when I would go someplace and see a terrible tragedy. Or when you are involved in something that you feel very deeply about...everyone is a human being, and you show what emotions you have.
I think to never show emotion is an issue on a different side. I never was in a campaign, but in terms of feeling very strongly about something that moved me, I have to say that it got right to me, gut issues.
I don’t want to compare going to a refugee camp or dealing with what it was like when you go to some disaster, but I think that we want our presidents to be strong and determined, and to be really compassionate. Not just talk about compassion, but to really be compassionate.
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I think we saw a really important part of Hillary.
DF: Does she face particular scrutiny or any double standards because she’s a woman? Can you relate at all to her in this campaign from your experience as the first female secretary of state?
MA: I do think that there are often words that are used to describe women’s characteristics that are the same as men’s, but described in other ways. A woman is emotional and a man is compassionate.
So yes, I can. But I think it’s time that we recognized that we need a president that has the background, experience, desire to change, that is non-discriminatory.
My book is basically about how hard this presidency is going to be. How many different kinds of issues there are that will have to be dealt with, from the use of force to dealing with poverty. The gap between rich and poor. Trying to mitigate some of the worst aspects of globalization. Dealing with issues of nuclear proliferation.
What I wanted to do was provide a context for the American voters as they look at what the issues are going to be. It’s not directed at any one candidate or at either party. In some ways, it’s a “how-to” book for a president. But also its value is that it lays out the issues that the next president is going to have to deal with, and how really, really hard it’s going to be.
DF: What should people be looking for on the campaign trail? “Change” and “experience” have been two of the buzzwords of this campaign, but what should voters really be listening for when they hear these candidates speak?
MA: They need to look for people that have confidence and the capability of listening to other people’s ideas. In order for America to be safe and secure, we need to know more about what’s going on in other countries. So we need a president that has a variety of experiences and has met a lot of foreign leaders.
I also think people need to look for a number of different kinds of issues and how they fit together. There are five big trends that I thought were important for people to understand.
We have to fight terrorism, but we can’t do it in a way that creates more anti-Americanism. It requires the cooperation of other countries.
There are the issues of nuclear proliferation, trying to get an agreement on a new way of controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.
We also need to be concerned that democracy has gotten a bad name. It’s going to be important for us to support democratic movements in other countries without imposing our views.
Mitigating the problems of globalization, especially the gap between rich and poor. And finally, the whole bundle of issues that are out there: environment, energy, and global warming...
It’s a very complicated thing in national security and to understand how many different elements are there and how much national security issues impact our domestic issues.
DF: When you’re not thinking about all of this, what do you do with yourself? What do you do in your spare time?
MA: I don’t have a lot of free time, so I’m one of these people that says that I love what I do. I have a business, a global consulting firm, and I’m very involved in emerging markets. I teach at Georgetown University. I love the idea of teaching students, and my book, to a great extent, is based on my personal experience and also on teaching.
I have six grandchildren, and I spend some time with them in various grandmotherly ways. I knit, I shop, and I have a great time.
DF: Do you have an iPod?
MA: I do have an iPod.
DF: What are you listening to these days?
MA: A lot of mixture stuff. Jazz is not easy to run to—
DF: Charlie Parker is pretty upbeat—
MA: Charlie Parker, yes. But I’ll tell you what I love. I went to see Jersey Boys, and I think those songs are great to do anything to. So I’ve got those on the iPod. And then I love Judy Collins, that’s kind of my era. Diana Krall I love too.
DF: Last movie you went to? Last book you read?
The last book that I’ve been reading—you’re not going to believe this—but I decided that I wanted to re-read a lot of the major books. So over Christmas, I was reading Thomas Mann’s "The Magic Mountain," which is an amazing book. It actually takes place in Switzerland, around Davos, where these big economic conferences take place.
So I’ve been re-reading books. Read a little Doris Lessing and had a nice time.
DF: Any favorite TV shows?
MA: I must admit that I watch “Desperate Housewives.” I was very glad that not everybody died in this last part. I’m very sorry that the “Gilmore Girls” finished, because I actually did a segment on the Gilmore Girls. And the news. I watch a lot of news.
DF: Do you follow Georgetown basketball at all?
MA: I do! I have to tell you a funny story. I do teach this course, and one of the things we do is a role play. We do Iran or some various crisis, and we have to do it on a weekend. So last year, when we had this role play, it actually was on Final Four weekend. I didn’t know what to do, so this year, as I was making up the syllabus, we actually looked at when the games were going to be. We made it a week later to make sure that we don’t have that conflict again. I do think they’re terrific, and there’s such a school spirit about it.
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