The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright


MAThis is my second Madeleine Albright audiobook read by the author. The first, Prague Winter, tells the story of her family history, one aspect of which she discovered after becoming Clinton's Secretary of State. That was when she learned of her Jewish heritage and that many of her relatives had died in concentration camps. 

I listened to this one after hearing her mention it when I saw her speak at a Hilary Clinton event in Decorah, Iowa in January. It was a thrill to see her and of course she was an impressive speaker and a persuasive supporter of Clinton. And as you can see, she was generous in giving time to be photographed with people who came to see her.

In this book written in 2006 she explores the importance of religion and morality in national and international politics. She calls upon her own experience as Secretary of State and critiques events after she left office. Somehow she manages to write about the Iraq war both bluntly and with forbearance, having been on the world stage herself. But her most important message is that the religious differences with others in our own country or across the globe should be approached with a greater effort to accept and understand the "other." 

She talks about the efforts we have made to separate religion from world politics,

to liberate logic from beliefs that transcend logic. It is, after all, hard enough to divide land between two groups on the basis of legal or economic equity; it is far harder if one or both claim that the land in question was given to them by God. But religious motivations do not disappear simply because they are not mentioned. More often they lie dormant only to rise up again at the least convenient moment. As our experience in Iran reflected, the United States has not always understood this well enough. To lead internationally, American policy makers must learn as much as possible about religion and then incorporate that knowledge in their strategies.

Easy enough to say and certainly true, but what a task. She tells that when she was 10, her father had served as head of a UN commission charged with resolving Indian-Pakistan struggle over the status of Kashmir which had a Muslim majority, a large Hindu minority and a Hindu ruler. She says,

The job for diplomats was to find a solution that would leave all sides satisfied. That was almost 60 years ago. Now my father is dead and I am old, both countries have nuclear weapons, and the problem is little nearer to being solved.

Though the problems seem intractable, I was happy to listen to someone whose essential goodness, intelligence, and wide knowledge is on display. 

Madeleine Albright, The Mighty and the Almighty, Harper, 2006, 352 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available in the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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