Albright's 'life in pins' on display at Phoenix Art Museum

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PHOENIX – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s story of foreign policy and pins began in an interesting way.

While she was serving as ambassador to the United Nations, Saddam Hussein labeled her an “unparalleled serpent.”

When Albright was scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials, she chose a special accessory for the occasion.

“I happened to have a snake pin,” Albright said. "So I wore it when we talked about Iraq.”

Now her collection of pins and their corresponding stories are on display at the Phoenix Art Museum. Albright toured the “My Life in Pins" exhibit with the press Jan. 9.

Albright served as ambassador to the U.N. from 1993 to 1997. She then became the first female secretary of state, making her the highest ranking woman in the United States government at the time.

Since wearing that snake pin during her discussion with Iraqi officials, Albright has let her pins do the talking.

“On good days, I wore flowers and butterflies, and on bad days, a lot of insects and horrible animals,” she said. “When other ambassadors asked me what we were going to do, I said, ‘Read my pins.' ”

There were some “bad pin days” too, Albright added. A brooch depicting an eagle that she bought for her swearing in as secretary of state was beautiful but tricky.

“This pin is an antique and it has a very crazy fastener, and I hadn’t fastened it properly,” she said. “I think, ‘Oh, it’s going to fall on the Bible. This is going to screw it all up.' ”

Each pin, from a turquoise pin presented by Arizona Governor Rose Mofford to the Dove of Peace gifted to her by Yitzhak Rabin’s widow, has given Albright a chance to share her story in an unusual way.

“These particular pins that are in the exhibit all have some kind of foreign policy story and allow me to explain a foreign policy issue of some kind,” she said.

Albright currently teaches the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown University. She chairs the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The pins will be on display through April 20.