Madeleine Albright, Book Endorsement, & a Dragonfly Pin

Madeleine Albright, Book Endorsement, & a Dragonfly Pin

Photo by U.S. Government under a Public Domain License.

People have been asking “What did it take to get Madeleine Albright to endorse Charles’ memoir, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance?” Sometimes it seems they think I just forged her name on the book cover without her permission. Believe me, it wasn’t that easy. From start to finish it took about 1½ – 2 years to obtain the response I was seeking.

After spending countless hours researching the method(s) to contact Dr. Albright, her best address, and the content of the message, I was unsuccessful. Neither Dr. Albright nor her staff responded to my round of letters and emails. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I had downloaded and paid for booklets on the “secrets” of getting book endorsements, took an online workshop with a lesson on endorsements, made phone calls to Dr. Albright’s offices to confirm the address, etc.

I found out things we have in common after reading a New York Times Book Review interview with Albright: We are both mainly nonfiction readers, but like the foreign literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Orhan Pamuk and American fiction writer Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. A childhood favorite we shared was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s, The Little Prince.

My letter described Charles’ book and story so well. It was so polite, so businesslike, and even had a little touch of humor. Yet it didn’t work. It didn’t matter how well-told the book was, I had to get my foot in the door. What would I do? If only I could meet her in person, I thought. I’m sure I could win her over.

Through my sister I found out Dr. Albright would be coming in May 2012 to the Detroit area on tour to speak about her new book, Prague Winter. I immediately registered online and started planning how I would present myself, my “elevator speech” as I would be rushed through the book signing line, what I would take with me, etc. Much of the detail for the preparation could be the topic of another post except I must mention the all important deciding what I should wear to the book talk/signing event.

In 2009, I discovered Dr. Albright and I both have pin collections. My collection consists exclusively of dragonfly pins. Dr. Albright has some dragonflies, but overall I’ve read in her book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box, her collection ranges from varying designs from craft fair pins to airport souvenir stands to jewelry stores, art galleries, and family heirlooms.

When she served as United Nations ambassador from 1993 to 1997 and as secretary of state from 1997 until 2001, Madeleine Albright brought more than words and papers to her high level meetings. She brought pins she wore as part of her diplomat’s wardrobe. And she believed they made a statement, a subtle form of nonverbal communication. The bee meant she was in a bad mood. The snake pin was reserved for Saddam Hussein, who called her an “unparalleled serpent.” Foreign dignitaries and politicians could see where they stood with Albright by the type of pin she wore to meet them.

In Read my Pins, a full-page is devoted to images of Albright’s dragonfly pins. She states the dragonfly “is associated by the Japanese with courage, happiness, and strength and that she finds dragonflies fascinating. So do I. One of the reasons is the iridescence on their wings and body. I’ve read that the magical property of iridescence is also associated with the discovery of one’s own abilities and helps to remove inhibitions and self doubts.

I would become a dragonfly pin diplomat.

My sister and I carefully examined my 100+ bevy of dragonfly pins to select the most eye-catching, fascinating pin. One that would have the greatest power to remove self-doubt and boost my confidence to persuade Dr. Albright to consider endorsing Border Crossings. We carefully selected the dragonfly ― a stunning handcrafted,  metal mesh brooch designed by Sara Cavender.

The important day came in May when I would meet Madeleine Albright albeit for a few moments. Adorned and armed with my pin I drove to the event reminding myself of words I’ve heard from mentors and that Dr. Albright is said to advocate for her students to:

Campaign for yourself with grace.

Don’t be afraid to ask or you will miss out on an opportunity.

Listen carefully.

Speak up and ask for what you want and need.

Do not hesitate or wait to seize the opportunity.

As I approached Dr. Albright to sign my books (I bought five so I’d have more time to be with her) I handed her assistant a newly crafted letter, carefully packaged, complete with the book cover image, and a brief excerpt. I turned slightly so the iridescence of my dragonfly pin would flash before Dr. Albright’s eyes and fascinate her.

Four months later I received the endorsement.

Do you believe in Pin Diplomacy?

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