When we think about international diplomacy, we usually envision high-level meetings with handshakes and important documents to be signed. My predecessors as secretary of state appeared at such meetings in their fancy suits with power ties; when I took office, I thought the time might be right to display pins with attitude.
The idea of using pins as a diplomatic tool can't be found in any State Department manual; in fact, it would never have happened if not for Saddam Hussein. After I criticized Hussein for failing to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors, the government-controlled Iraqi press referred to me as an "unparalleled serpent."
By chance, I had a meeting scheduled with Iraqi officials; I decided to wear a pin showing a reptile coiled around a branch. When the meeting was over, a reporter asked me why I had chosen that particular pin. I smiled and said "Just my way of sending a message." Before long, jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. The first President Bush had been known for saying "Read my lips." I began urging colleagues to "Read my pins."See some of the pins in her collection
As an instrument of foreign policy, a pin is clearly not in the same league as a peace agreement or a deal to limit nuclear arms. So I do not claim too much, but I do think that the right symbol at the correct time can add something meaningful to a relationship, whether that something is warm and fuzzy—or very, very sharp.
It was also enjoyable to see how other foreign ministers would react. If I had on a ladybug or a butterfly, they knew that I was in a good mood. If I wore my angel pin, they could expect me to be gentle. But if it was a spider or a wasp, they had fair warning to watch out.
During four years of Middle East peace negotiations, I almost exhausted my collection. When first speaking on the subject, I wore a dove pin that had been a gift from the widow of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had been assassinated because of his support for peace. Later, in Jerusalem, Mrs. Rabin presented me with a whole necklace of doves, saying that the dove pin might need reinforcements.
She was right.