Madeleine Albright says she is a “perennial” who has no plans to put her feet up and retire. At 82 she remains a teacher, author, speaker, businesswoman and adviser across the generations and around the world. On June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the former U.S. secretary of state participated in an AARP conference, “The Future of Work for All Generations.” Afterward, she talked with AARP about her longevity, her hopes for America and her famous pin collection.
Q: During AARP's fireside chat, you said you have no plans to retire. What motivates you to keep writing and speaking and working and traveling?
A: Well, first of all I enjoy it all and I'm endlessly curious. I like to learn new things. It took me a long time to find my voice and I'm not going to be quiet now.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: I had a full-time job when I first got married, but then I didn't really have a full-time job again until I was 39 years old, when I went to work for [the late Maine senator and secretary of state] Ed Muskie. Then I was at the UN under President Clinton as a member of the Cabinet and part of the decision-making circle, and then secretary of state [1997-2001]. Suddenly, people were listening. I've learned a lot and I really do think, at complicated times, those of us who can be helpful should be. That's what motivates me.
Q: You're known for saying you're an optimist who worries a lot. Are you optimistic about America?
A: I am optimistic, and what keeps me optimistic are the people, the discussions, the questioning that goes on. I have to say also that what keeps me optimistic are the younger people. I love teaching for that reason and having a sense that they want to be involved.
Q: What's the best way people can stay involved in their communities and political lives regardless of their age?
A: First of all, I believe in political involvement. Either people need to run for office or support those that do. I think [they can stay involved] through community involvement with the schools and helping each other.