Madeleine Albright, who came to the United States as a refugee and became the first woman secretary of state, has died. She was 84 years old. Cancer was the root cause. She was surrounded by loved ones. We’ve lost a wonderful mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend.” Joe Biden praised Madeleine Albright as a “force for goodness, grace, and decency – and for liberty.”
“Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history,” President Barack Obama said. Madeleine Albright, born Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague in 1937 but known as Madeleine since childhood, fled to London with her family in 1939 after the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia. She arrived in the United States in 1948.
She was raised Catholic and only discovered her parents were Jewish and that several family members were murdered during the Holocaust decades later.
Following Clinton’s election in 1992, Madeleine Albright served as ambassador to the United Nations before becoming Secretary of State. The aftermath of the Soviet Union’s demise, including wars in the former Yugoslavia, the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in the years preceding 9/11 were the dominant foreign policy themes of the time.
Madeleine Albright was appointed Secretary of State in 1997, making her the highest-ranking woman in US government history. It put her fourth in line for the presidency, though, like her predecessor Henry Kissinger, she would not have been able to fill the position because she was not a natural-born US citizen as defined by the constitution.
“The impact that Secretary Albright… had on this building is felt every single day in just about every single corridor,” said state department spokesperson Ned Price. She was a pioneer.”
“Madeleine Albright was always exceedingly generous to and encouraging of younger people coming up in national security,” said Ben Rhodes, a former foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. She was always willing to lend a helping hand, open her home, and share her wisdom.”
Val Demings, a Florida congresswoman and Senate candidate, described Madeleine Albright as “not only a… glass ceiling breaker [but] a brilliant, passionate, and dedicated public servant.”
“So many people around the world are alive and living better lives because of her service,” said Hillary Clinton, Albright’s successor as Secretary of State. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton’s successor, praised “a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies for peace in our world.”
The threat of authoritarianism was the focus of Albright’s most recent book, Fascism: A Warning, which was published in 2018.
“Democracy is not the easiest form of government,” she admitted to the Guardian at the time. “It does necessitate attention, participation, and upholding the social contract.” And it doesn’t happen right away. What we must learn is how to make democracy work because people want to vote and eat.”
Albright called Trump “the first anti-democratic president in modern US history” and “actually really smart – evil smart, I think” in her book. She, on the other hand, cast a wide net.
Four years later, as Vladimir Putin amassed Russian forces on Ukraine’s border, Albright wrote a New York Times column in which she recalled being the first senior US figure to be in Moscow in the early 2000 for meeting the Russian leader.
“I recorded my impressions while flying home,” she wrote. ‘Putin is small and pale, almost reptilian in his coldness,’ I wrote. He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall, but he did not anticipate the Soviet Union as a whole collapsing. ‘Putin is ashamed of what happened to his country and is determined to restore its greatness,’ says a source.