Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, a longtime admirer of Harry Truman and supporter of the Truman Library in Independence, is this year’s winner of the Truman Legacy of Leadership Award.
The award is given each year at the Wild About Harry gala, a major fundraiser for the Truman Library Institute, the non-profit partner of the museum. The gala is at 7 p.m. May 2 – a few days before the 33rd president’s birthday – at the Marriott Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City.
Albright was secretary of state during the administration of President Bill Clinton, the first woman to hold that job. In a nod to Truman’s role in the creation of NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – Albright and others held the signing ceremony at the Truman Library when Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999. At that ceremony, Albright used the table that Truman had used in 1947 to sign the Truman Doctrine, which called for a policy of containing Soviet expansion during the Cold War.
She reveres Truman. Her father was a diplomat for Czechoslovakia, and her family spent World War II in England. When Czechoslovakia fell behind the Iron Curtain after the war, her family came to America.
It was 1948, and Truman was president. Truman pushed for a robust American role overseas, from the formation of NATO to responding to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950 to strengthening the United Nations.
“I think my lodestar has always been that when America is involved, good things happen, and when America is not involved, bad things happen,” Albright told historian Michael Beschloss.
Albright herself became a diplomat and favored that same active role for America on the world stage. She said Truman’s actions in the tumultuous years after World War II made a difference.
“So there’s nobody that I think I can honestly say that has had a bigger influence, in one form or another, than Harry Truman on my life,” she said.
Albright also is president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Several awards bear Truman’s name. The Legacy of Leadership Award has gone to such people as former Sens. Christopher Bond and Bob Dole and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers. The city of Independence annually presents the Truman Public Service Award, which has gone to Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton, a wide range of members of Congress, generals and admirals and others. Albright was given that award in 2007.