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Badges for Lifelong Learning: A Reflection on the "Read My Pins" Exhibit

Badges for Lifelong Learning:  A Reflection on the "Read My Pins" Exhibit

You may know that former Secretary of State Madeline Albright likes to collect pins, many of which she received as gifts from diplomats, foreign leaders, and fellow colleagues.  Did you know, though, that Albright's pins are much like a personalized set of badges for learning?

Recently, I visited the "Read My Pins" exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which featured Albright's collection.  Pins representing insects, animals, patriotism, flowers, and aliens (yes, aliens!) were displayed in glass cases that contained blurbs about how a certain pin or category of pins is/are meaningful to Albright.  Most pins have value, because they are symbolic of experiences that have shaped Albright's cultural awareness, intellectual gusto, and committment to service.

For example, the most popular pin from the exhibit, is a large serpent brooch that Albright wore when meeting with Saddam Hussein, a move she chose after hearing that Hussein's poet-in-residence referred to her as an "unparelled serpent."  The presence of the pin confirmed her strength in the presence of a dictator.  To symbolize motherhood and her daughters' successes, Albright has three sailboat pins, each representing one of her daughters.  These pins are significant to Albright, because the sails appear to be blowing in the wind, which she likened to their (her daughters) persistance to move forward and grow stronger.  As for the aliens, it may be a little known fact that Albright loves "Star Trek."  The case featuring flying saucers and wizards is important, because they inform of us Albright's quirky side, a side that for many people is often neglected or unrewarded.

In reflection, the "Read My Pins" exhibit encouraged me to carefully consider items I have collected and acquired over time that might represent experiences that made me stronger, smarter, and happier, and that are not necessarily connected to the classroom.  In addition to her political career, Albright's pins are a portfolio of her womanhood, motherhood, and lifelong endeavour to learn.  Imagine the stories all of us could tell if we started to build portfolios of unexpectedly meaningful items.

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