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Judge Jackson, Madeleine Albright and the legacy of being 'first'


During Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearings this week, she had a special message for two very important people - her daughters.


KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: Girls, I know it has not been easy as I've tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you've seen that with hard work, determination and love, it can be done.


She spoke to the challenges of being a first - in her case, the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court in its more than 233-year history.


BROWN JACKSON: When you're the first, it means no one has ever done it before like you. And there may be hundreds, thousands of people who might have wanted that opportunity and thought, I can't do that because there's no one there like me.

SHAPIRO: That's a sentiment that echoes the words of another first.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I did love being a first.

SUMMERS: That's Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state.


ALBRIGHT: The first person to call me to congratulate me was Henry Kissinger. He did say, by the way, welcome to the fraternity. And I said, it isn't that either anymore.


SHAPIRO: We learned yesterday that Albright died of cancer at the age of 84. She was known for her advice, specifically to working women and mothers as they navigated new and sometimes unfriendly spaces, despite having what she saw as a distinct advantage.


ALBRIGHT: I think we are better at a lot - at personal relationships and then have the capability, obviously, of telling it like it is when it's necessary.

SUMMERS: And the next generation was foremost in her mind.


ALBRIGHT: My youngest granddaughter, when she turned 7 last year, said to her mother, my daughter, so what's the big deal about Grandma Maddie being secretary of state? Only girls are secretary of state.


ALBRIGHT: And her (laughter)...


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: 'Cause in her lifetime, that's...

ALBRIGHT: That would be so.

SHAPIRO: She advised women to support each other and speak for women's issues, even though she knew there would be pushback, like the kind she used to get in the male-dominated U.N.


ALBRIGHT: They thought that it was kind of a soft issue. The bottom line that I decided was actually women's issues are the hardest issues because they are the ones that have to do with life and death in so many aspects.

SUMMERS: And as for women who did not feel it was their job to help each other, well, to them, she directed one of her most famous quotes during a 2011 TED Talk.


ALBRIGHT: There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.


PAT MITCHELL: Secretary Albright, I guess you will be going to heaven.

(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
Kathryn Fox
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