BY MATTHEW LEE & AAMER MADHANI
WASHINGTON (AP) — Addressing world leaders and America’s political elite, paying last respects to Madeleine Albright, former President Bill Clinton reminded the former secretary of state in his latest conversation with the former secretary of state that she did not want to talk about her failing health at a time when the West is in tension after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Albright, Clinton recalls, assured him in that conversation about two weeks before her death last month that she was getting the best care she could, but didn’t want to “waste time” talking about it.
“The only thing that really matters is what kind of world we are going to leave for our grandchildren,” Clinton recalled Albright’s words. He added: “She made the decision with her last breath that she would walk out in boots.”
Led by President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Clinton, the man who chose Albright as his top diplomat and the highest-ranking woman in the US government at the time, some 1,400 mourners gathered to celebrate her life and accomplishments. refugee child from war-torn Europe who became America’s first female secretary of state.
Albright died of cancer last month at the age of 84, prompting a flood of condolences from around the world that also hailed her support for democracy and human rights. In addition to the current and former presidents, the service was attended by at least three of her successors as secretary of state, as well as other current and former cabinet members, foreign diplomats, legislators, and a host of others who knew her.
Biden, who paid tribute to Albright, said her name is synonymous with the idea that America is “a force for good in the world.”
“In the 20th and 21st centuries, freedom has had no greater advocate than Madeleine Korbel Albright,” Biden said. “Today we honor a truly proud American who made us all proud to be Americans.”
Hillary Clinton called on her husband to nominate Albright to the post of secretary of state, a role that Clinton would fill herself during the Obama administration. Over the years, a strong friendship has developed between them.
Clinton, in her own tribute, recalled some fonder memories of Albright, including the time she taught Botswana’s foreign minister makarana and danced the night away with a young, handsome man at her daughter Chelsea’s wedding. She also remembered Albright as a fearless diplomat who broke down barriers and then advised, cajoled and inspired women to follow in her footsteps.
“Angels better put on their best pins and dancing shoes,” Clinton said. “Because if, as Madeleine believed, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women, they haven’t seen anyone like her yet.”
Among the crowd gathered at the Washington National Cathedral to pay tribute to Albright were current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and former secretaries Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry were also to be present. Other senior officials expected to attend included Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CIA Director Bill Burns, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Mark Milley and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Members of the VIP audience wore masks, as requested by the Albright family.
Foreign dignitaries were invited to the funeral, including the presidents of Georgia and Kosovo, as well as high-ranking officials from Colombia, Bosnia and the Czech Republic.
Albright was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, but her family fled twice, first from the Nazis and then from the Soviets. They ended up in the United States, where she attended Wellesley College and rose through the ranks in Democratic foreign policy circles to become an ambassador to the UN. Bill Clinton elected her Secretary of State in 1996 for his second term.
Although Albright never ran for president due to her foreign background, she was widely admired for breaking the glass ceiling, even by her political detractors.
As a Czech refugee who had seen the horrors of both Nazi Germany and the Iron Curtain, she was no dove. She played a leading role in pressuring the Clinton administration for military involvement in the Kosovo conflict. “I think it’s Munich,” she often said, referring to the German city where the Western Allies abandoned her homeland to the Nazis.
As Secretary of State, Albright played a key role in persuading Clinton to go to war against Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over his treatment of Kosovo Albanians in 1999. As ambassador to the UN, she advocated a tough US foreign policy, especially in the case of Milosevic. Bosnia treatment. NATO’s intervention in Kosovo eventually became known as the Madeleine War.
She also took a hard line on Cuba, telling the United Nations that the downing of a civilian plane by Cubans in 1996 was not an “agreement” but rather “cowardice.”
Former President Clinton recalled the moment in his tribute, recalling that at the time, Albright faced criticism that the poignant taunt was “undiplomatic” and “unfeminine”. He liked it very much.
“I called her and said…” This is the best line that anyone in this administration has developed and presented,” Clinton said.
In 2012, Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, saying her life has been an inspiration to all Americans.
Born Marie Jana Korbel in Prague on May 15, 1937, she was the daughter of the diplomat Josef Korbel. The family was Jewish and converted to Catholicism when she was 5 years old. Three of her Jewish grandparents died in concentration camps.
Albright was an internationalist whose point of view was partly shaped by her background. Her family fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 when the Nazis took over their country, and she spent the war years in London.
After the war, when the Soviet Union took over vast areas of Eastern Europe, her father moved the family to the United States. They settled in Denver, where her father taught at the University of Denver. One of Korbel’s best students was Rice, who later succeeded his daughter as secretary of state.
Albright graduated from Wellesley College in 1959. She worked as a journalist and then studied international relations at Columbia University, where she received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in 1968. in 1976. She then entered politics and what at the time was the world of male-dominated foreign policy professionals.