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Classroom diplomacy

The new secretary of state discovered last month that the world's schoolchildren can be as inquisitive as the Washington press corps.

Madeleine K. Albright took time out of her around-the-world tour on Feb. 20 to answer electronic questions submitted from classrooms throughout the United States and by students in Finland and the Czech Republic.

Throughout the chat session hosted by the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program, students peppered her with more than 200 questions, ranging from "What is your favorite thing about your job?" to "How would you describe the cultural ties with the U.S.A. and Russia?" to "Do you feel that school uniforms are a restriction to our First Amendment rights?"

Not surprisingly, America's leading diplomat had time only to tap out a summary of her nine-city tour and answer eight of the queries in the hour her schedulers set aside during a stop in Moscow.

The best part of her new job, she wrote at about 11 p.m. Moscow time, is "meeting with other nations [sic] leaders and working together on policies and laws that are fair to all countries."

"I never dreamed that I could be secretary of state," she said in a response to the Kent School in Denver, her alma mater. "My dream was to do well, speak English well, get good grades, and start more international-relations clubs," she wrote. Ms. Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia, is the daughter of a Czech diplomat who fled Europe at the beginning of World War II.

She even answered a question posed by Czech children in their native tongue.

She promised to offer her thoughts on school uniforms and First Amendment protections, U.S. relations with Russia, and the more than 200 other questions. Those answers will be posted on the World Wide Web site of the GLOBE program, an international effort in which students collect environmental data for scientists and use computers to correspond with them. It is run by NASA, the Department of Education, and other U.S. government agencies.

The responses will be posted at

--DAVID J. HOFF [email protected]

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