Albright Renews Her Oath

Fifty years after arriving in New York filled with apprehension and excitement, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright renewed her oath of allegiance on Tuesday at a naturalization ceremony for 97 new United States citizens.

Placing her hand over her heart, Czechoslovakian-born Albright, accompanied by her sister, Kathy Silva, led the group from 31 countries in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

"Today marks a new beginning in your lives and an ongoing chapter in the story of America which is, above all else, the story of immigrants," said Albright in a speech at the 35-minute ceremony at U.S. District Court in Washington.

When the 11-year-old Albright arrived in New York on Nov. 11, 1948, with her parents, her sister, and her brother, she was excited but scared.

"I did not know whether the differences in the way I spoke and acted would leave me in America, but not of America," Albright told the group. "I should not have worried. At its best, America's embrace is as broad as the country itself."

Albright became a U.S. citizen nine years later and is the first woman to serve as secretary of state.

Albright said that one of the new citizens, Feleke Kassa, a refugee from Ethiopia, told her before the ceremony that "only in America could a refugee from Africa get to meet the secretary of state."

"Well, let me say Mr. Kassa, that only in America could a refugee girl from Central Europe become secretary of state," responded Albright.

Albright urged the new citizens to "accept the responsibility to participate in our democracy."

"That matters because whether America will thrive or fade, prosper or fail, lead or fall behind, depends entirely on the courage, creativity and energy of our citizens," said Albright.

Albright was born in Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. Fleeing the Nazis, her father, Josef Korbel, a diplomat, took his family to London. After the war, they were on the run again, this time to escape communism.

In 1948, the Korbels arrived in the United States. Her father ended up teaching at the University of Denver. Albright went to Wellesley, graduating with honors in 1959, a decade before Hillary Rodham Clinton, an old-school tie that gave her a powerful ally in the White House.

Shortly after receiving a doctorate in Russian studies from Columbia University in 1976, she went to work for a former professor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Carter's national security adviser.

During the years of Republican control of the White House, she taught at Georgetown University and was a foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidates Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton.

In 1993, Clinton appointed Albright as ambassador to the United Nations and in December 1996 he nominated her as secretary of state.

Divorced from Joseph Albright in 1982, she has three daughter.

Written by DONNA ABU-NASR