In Memory of a Czech Heroine: Madeleine Albright

Born Marie Jana Korbelová, better known to the world as Madeleine Albright, we remember this formidable woman who served as the first female U.S. secretary of state, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a beloved professor, and an advocate for democracy, diplomacy, and human rights.

We also remember her as an inspirational Czech patriot, one whose birthright helped her become a visionary leader and barrier-breaking diplomat, justifying her place in the pages of Czech storybook heroines.

Her story is remarkably similar to that of the Lobkowicz family: a child of Czech refugees forced to flee her homeland twice, first from the Nazis and then from the Communists. Her father, Josef Korbel, served the Czechoslovak government in exile in London during World War II, as did Maximilian Lobkowicz as the Czechoslovak ambassador. Their mutual loyalty and diplomatic service to the nascent democratic state was continued by future generations.We are honored to have known Albright, who visited the Lobkowicz Palace in 2009 and was often in Prague as a board member of the Aspen Institute. We are grateful for our partnership with the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College (with whom we have had the great pleasure of welcoming over 16 student interns since 2015). Albright has been a long-time supporter of our cultural efforts in the Czech Republic, including most recently her personal endorsement of our plans to renovate and transform the Antonín Dvořák Birth House into a new museum and international music destination.

Albright’s democratic advocacy, unparalleled leadership, and educational devotion has inspired us, and so many others, to serve the world—at a time when it is needed more than ever. She was someone who not only fought for peace and justice but, above all, championed and embodied the values of civil society and human dignity.

We hope to honor her memory by exemplifying her values through our cultural efforts in the Czech Republic: sharing the past to help create a better future.