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Madeleine Albright Inspires Us!
Madeleine Albright Inspires Us!
By Janis Richardson
Posted: 2022-08-06T00:25:06Z

July Book Group Reflections

We're off and running! Our League Book Group met for the first time on July 19 for a discussion of Madeleine Albright's 2020 memoir, Hell and Other Destinations. I wondered how this would go. How does a book group work on Zoom? How crazy is it to have our first meeting in July, when so many people are into summer, disconnected from their normal schedule? How many people would be interested in a book group - or in discussion this book?

Worry not! I was reminded once again that the people who show up are the right people! And, that showing up can mean different things to different people. Two people were indeed off on summer vacation treks but were so interested in the book group and this book that they sent comments on the book to me via email. One person joined to hear the discussion but had not (yet) read the book - perfectly ok! And several of us were there with the book in our recent memories, eager to connect with a conversation about Madeleine.

And, I boldly say Madeleine because after reading this book, I feel like I know Madeleine Albright. She was indeed a people person with an amazing ability to put herself in situations where exactly the right people for the moment show up - and to make these people lifelong friends. We talked about the many amazing things that Albright did and the shifts that she managed throughout her long, productive life. She was born in 1937 in Prague, and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was eleven years old when a coup brought Communism to Czechoslovakia. She attended Wellsley College, married and spent her young adult years as a socialite and stay at home mom. Her amazing career began in her late thirties as she earned her Ph.D. at Columbia University, served on Edmund Muskie's staff, worked under Zbigniew Brzezinski as a National Security Council staff member, and served in the Clinton Administration as the United State's Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State.

Hell and Other Destinations focused on her post-Secretary of State years. Many people would have said "done" at that point, but Madeleine continued on - teaching, consulting, serving on various boards (including the board of the New York Stock Exchange) - but most of all, surrounding herself with amazing people and courageously saying yes to different ways to contribute. Our conversation reflected on her energy, her knack for avoiding "burned bridges" and the joy she found in the people surrounding her. We talked about the journey that we have (and are) experiencing as women - the different expectations and permissions that we feel now that were not there in our younger days. We found inspiration in her story, and encouragement to keep looking at the road ahead with joyful curiosity.

We wrapped up our meeting with the decision to dive into another woman's life next month - choosing Fiona Hill's memoir There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century as our book for August. Will we always ready memoirs or books by or about women? Probably not. As another saying goes, "we make the path by walking on it" - and thus, that is how the Book Group will be, with those that show up shaping what we read and how we connect as a group. Join us and join the adventure! Our next meeting will be via Zoom on August 23. Hope to see you there!

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