Earlier this week, NDI Board Chairman and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke with Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie about what it means to be risk-taking women. Their conversation was moderated by Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski founder of Know Your Value, a movement and multi-touchpoint platform that helps women recognize, and be recognized for, their personal and professional value by developing and inspiring individual growth.
The speakers discussed the critical role that risk-taking women play -- whether as political leaders or as refugees -- through the most trying times. Secretary Albright made the case that the countries handling COVID-19 the best are those run by women. From New Zealand to Taiwan, these leaders are not allying themselves with one group at the expense of another, but are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. She said that when women gain political power, they are more likely to think about the best way to get the job done instead of their personal benefit.
Ms. Jolie pointed out, however, that too often women question their own value. At a time when smart and empowered women are showing their worth geopolitically, what keeps holding other women back? While the answers may not be simple, encouraging and enabling women to engage in political processes is a fundamental first step. Ms. Jolie shared an illustrative example of her experience in Afghanistan, where she saw firsthand what happens when women who made sacrifices for the transition are then excluded from peace processes and politics.
While Secretary Albright, Ms. Jolie and Ms. Brzezinski are all women leaders in their respective fields, they each have their own refugee story to tell. Through her work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms. Jolie spoke about the brave families she has met for example from Syria, and how their potential and thirst for freedom and peace can enrich the fabric of their host countries if they are allowed to settle. Secretary Albright told of her childhood when she was twice a refugee as her family escaped first the Nazis and then communism before she became “a grateful American” and the first woman Secretary of State. Ms. Brezezinski shared her father’s story of being born in Poland and his later rise to become National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter.
Despite the challenges of the current moment, Secretary Albright and Ms. Jolie both shared their passionate belief in young people’s potential to set the course for a new future for all of us. They both recognized that around the world, those leading change in country after country are the younger generations. As NDI Chair, Albright said she was proud of the programming that NDI conducts to promote youth leadership.
Ms. Jolie concluded the conversation by noting that even in the darkest hour, a path forward can be found when moments of challenge arise, each person must choose who they will be and how they respond. Progress doesn’t just happen on its own, she commented.
In the coming days, NDI will release a series of videos of the conversation. Check back for more!
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