Deciding what pin to wear to a particular meeting was great fun, but also more complicated when I was preparing to go on a trip. Usually I did not have a lot of time, so I often just grabbed a handful of pieces from my dresser drawer and hoped for the best. Of course, one problem with pins is that they can do a lot of damage to your wardrobe. After awhile, I found that I had to wear larger (and crazier) pins just to cover up the holes.
There was also the question of the clasp—which has a long history. As I write in my new book, ancient hunter-gatherers used pieces of flint to keep their clothes on while running around the forest in pursuit of their next meal. Royal burial sites in Ur, the home city of the patriarch Abraham, included gold and silver pins that would have been used to secure robes at the shoulder. I mention these origins only to show that I could not possibly have been the first person to be embarrassed by a pin that came undone at the wrong time. For me, the wrong time was the ceremony at which I was sworn in as secretary of state.
For the occasion, I had purchased an antique pin showing a gold eagle with widespread wings. What I failed to notice was that the clasp was not only old but complicated: Fastening it was a multistep process that I neglected to complete.
All went well until I had one hand on the Bible and the other in the air.
Then, I looked down and saw that my beautiful pin was dangling sideways. With all the commotion, I had no time to fix the problem until after the photographers had done their work, showing me standing next to the president with an eagle that had forgotten how to fly.