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Medal of Freedom: Georgetown's Second Goes to Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright, Georgetown's Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this spring. The news comes days after President Obama announced that another Georgetown professor, Jan Karski, will receive the honor posthumously.

April 26, 2012 – The White House announced today that a Presidential Medal of Freedom will go to Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state and Georgetown’s Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy.

The announcement comes only three days after President Barack Obama announced that the late Georgetown professor Jan Karski would receive the medal posthumously for the risks he took to make the first eyewitness reports of the Holocaust.

“It means a great deal to me to receive the medal along with one of my personal heroes and former colleagues, the late Jan Karski,” said Albright, who was raised Catholic but learned late in life that she had Jewish relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. “Like Karski, I have always worked to protect human rights here and abroad, and it is very rewarding to have that recognized by President Obama.”

 Albright's new book, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, which delves into the history of such relatives, was released this week by publisher HarperCollins.

Highest Civilian Honor

The Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Both medals will be presented at a White House ceremony later this spring, along with 11 others, including John Glenn, Toni Morrison and Bob Dylan.

“We are deeply honored to have had among us two professors who are winners of the highest civilian honor in the country,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “Both Madeleine Albright and Jan Karski have made extraordinary contributions to the United States and Georgetown.”

Albright served as the country’s 64th Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 under former President Bill Clinton and is the first woman to hold that position.  

During that time, she worked to increase membership in NATO and helped lead the Alliance’s campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

Champion of Democracy

“She also pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, sought to reduce the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons, and was a champion of democracy, human rights, and good governance across the globe,” states a White House press release announcing the honors.

From 1993 to 1997, Albright was America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

After leaving office in 2001, she returned to teaching at Georgetown, authored five books and founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management.

Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute and is president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. She also serves on the boards of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute and the Center for American Progress

Extraordinary Honorees

The former secretary of state holds a master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia University’s department of public law and government, and is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including her autobiography, Madam Secretary: A Memoir(Hyperion, 2003).

Her other books include The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006); Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership (2008); and Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009).

“These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation,” Obama’s statement reads. “They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

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