Madeleine Albright's pipe

Photo: Burcu Avsar

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Recently I was going through some boxes that had belonged to my father. Among his old papers and cards, I found his pipe. There is no object more emblematic of him. In every photo, he's pointing with it, or has it in his mouth. There was even a documentary made about his career—he was a respected diplomat and a beloved professor—entitled A Man With a Pipe. Finding it quite undid me. I was the firstborn in my family, and my father and I were always very close. He was everything a parent should be, a warm and loving father and a fine human being. (He was an unusually buttoned-up man, however; when late in his life he moved to Colorado, he took up fishing, which he only did in a coat and tie, and skiing, which he did in an overcoat.) Being European, he was also very strict. He expected a great deal from us, and I credit everything I've accomplished to the desire to live up to those expectations. While it's impossible to contain all of one person in one object, when I found his pipe I felt him nearer than I had in years. My journey has been a long one, and I feel that one of the most important things I've done in my life is to remain ever grateful. My father had an amazing career, but there were so many other things he might have accomplished had he not lived through what he did—our family was forced from Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation and then again during the Communist regime, which is when we came to America. Holding my father's pipe and thinking of his life, I realized how many things I'd done that were modeled on his example, and that I hoped would in some way fulfill the things he would have wanted to do himself. My career, my life, is a tribute to him. I look at his pipe and see his journey, but I also see my own.

—Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state and author of Prague Winter (Harper)


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