On October 25th, the senior class arrived at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum and was ushered into the seats in a darkened auditorium with four empty chairs on a brightly lit stage. In only a few minutes, Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State, would be seated in one of those chairs, participating in an interview with students from Austin High School, the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, and Ann Richards’ own Alejandra Wait (12).
”I had to research for a few weeks and come up with probably about 14 questions,” Wait said.
Wait was tasked with writing questions that were relevant not only to Secretary Albright’s experience, but also her exhibit that was recently installed at the LBJ Library’s museum: “Read My Pins: the Madeleine Albright Collection.”
Before her work as Secretary of State, Albright held the position as United States ambassador to the United Nations, where her use of pins became a notable aspect of her diplomatic work. She discussed her first use of jewelry to make a statement in the interview with the students.
She tells the story of an Iraqi newspaper referring to her as a serpent, and how in response she wore a brooch shaped like a snake when later meeting with officials from Iraq. After that instance, Albright says she went out to buy costume jewelry pins to convey her moods as a statement for what was happening in the UN sessions at the time. Balloons and flowers when she was optimistic, bees when she had to be tough and stinging, and turtles when she felt discussions were moving too slowly. Not only do her pins serve as intriguing statements for diplomatic purposes, but in person Albright provides personal insight for the students present on her opinions on the issues of today.
“It was interesting because she was such a cool person,” Wait continues. “I only probably spoke to her for a minute or two, but it really made me want to get to know her really well.”
Wait wasn’t the only ARS senior to engage in conversation with Secretary Albright. Several Ann Richards seniors were among those selected to ask questions at the event.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity,” Anais Arechiga (12), one of these students, explains. “I was really happy to be able to be one of the ones to ask her a question.”
A seasoned writer and editor for the ARS Polaris Press, during the election last year Wait conducted an interview with Garry Mauro, who served as Texas State Director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“The other interview I had with Garry Mauro was a lot more extensive,” Wait reflects. “I got to really know him and talk to him about a lot of things, so that was cool, but for [Albright] it was more of a professional presentation thing.”
Despite the formal setting, Wait and the rest of the senior class left with food for thought and more insight into the life of one of America’s lesser-known first ladies.
“As I did research, she kind of became my idol, politically,” Wait concludes.”But then when I met her she kind of became my idol personality-wise. It was really cool to see both sides of her.”