Madeleine Albright honored by Biden, other world leaders

Albright_Funeral_54853 Katharine Medill Albright speaks, with her sisters Alice Patterson Albright, center, and Anne Korbel Albright, right, during the funeral of their mother, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_02319 President Joe Biden speaks during a funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Memorial_42751 FILE - In this May 24, 2012, photo, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright smiles at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington. President Joe Biden and top diplomats will pay tribute on April 27, 2022, to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the job, who died last month at age 84.
Albright_Funeral_97702 Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hugs her daughter Chelsea Clinton after speaking during the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_48461 President Joe Biden, left, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_32078 President Joe Biden, left, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_01303 People wear the Czech Republic flag on their face masks during a funeral service for former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_99626 The casket of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Albright_Funeral_16218 The casket of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is carried into the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Albright_Funeral_19416 The family of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright follow as her casket is carried into the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Albright_Funeral_93193 President Joe Biden places his hand on the casket of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_47712 The pallbearers, all former members of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's Diplomatic Security Service and protective detail from her time as both U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and as Secretary of State, carry her casket at the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Albright_Funeral_93285 Daughters of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from left, Katharine Medill Albright, Anne Korbel Albright, and Alice Patterson Albright walk to speak at their mother's funeral at National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_88354 The escorted casket of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is taken out of the Washington National Cathedral, after a funeral service, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_19209 President Joe Biden greets former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, as he arrives before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are right.
Albright_Funeral_25521 Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_27051 President Joe Biden speaks during the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_95397 President Joe Biden, left, talks with former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are right.
Albright_Funeral_93285 Daughters of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from left, Katharine Medill Albright, Anne Korbel Albright, and Alice Patterson Albright walk to speak at their mother's funeral at National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_03071 President Joe Biden, left, talks with former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are right.
Albright_Funeral_77547 The casket of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is carried into the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Albright_Funeral_25596 President Joe Biden, left, talks with former President Barack Obama, before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are right.
Albright_Funeral_75534 Former President Barack Obama, left, and former first lady Michelle Obama, talk with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_73212 Former President Barack Obama, left, and former first lady Michelle Obama, talk with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_94920 The family of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright watch as her casket is carried into the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Albright_Funeral_14065 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, talks to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as they arrive for the funeral of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_22394 Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as they arrive for a funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
Albright_Funeral_63815 The family of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright watch as her casket is carried into the Washington National Cathedral for a funeral service in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
APTOPIX_Albright_Funeral_25596 President Joe Biden, left, talks with former President Barack Obama, before the start of the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Washington National Cathedral, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are right.
Albright_Funeral_70687 The escorted casket of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is taken out of the Washington National Cathedral, after a funeral service, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Washington.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A veritable who’s who of Washington’s political and foreign policy elite gathered Wednesday to pay their last respects to the late Madeleine Albright, a child of conflict-ravaged Europe who arrived in the U.S. as an 11-year old girl and became America’s first female secretary of state.

The trailblazing diplomat and champion of her adopted country as the world’s “indispensable nation” was joyously remembered by President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton as a no-nonsense, valued adviser who did not suffer fools or tyrants and was most concerned about Russia’s war with Ukraine when she died last month of cancer at 84.

Biden said Albright’s name was synonymous with the idea that America is “a force for good in the world.”

“In the 20th and 21st century, freedom had no greater champion than Madeleine Korbel Albright,” he said. “Today we honor a truly proud American who made all of us prouder to be Americans.”

He said he had learned of Albright’s death while flying to Brussels for an emergency NATO summit on Ukraine and was struck by the memory of her key role in pressing for the expansion of the alliance in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union to protect Europe from a repeat of the carnage of World War II and the Cold War ideological battle between communism and democracy.

And Clinton, the man who appointed her first as his U.N. ambassador in 1993 and then as secretary of state in 1996, said his last conversation with Albright just weeks before her passing were dominated by the situation in Ukraine and her fears about the future of democracy at home and abroad.

He recalled that Albright didn’t want to talk about her declining health at a moment when the West is on edge following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Albright, Clinton recalled, assured him that she was getting the best care she could, but didn’t want to “waste time” talking about that.

“The only thing that really matters is what kind of world we’re going to leave to our grandchildren,” Clinton recalled Albright told him. He added, “She made a decision with her last breath she would go out with her boots on.”

Biden and Clinton, along with former President Barack Obama and several of Albright’s successors as secretary of state, including Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry and current office-holder Antony Blinken, were some 1,400 mourners who attended the funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral.

The service was punctuated at points by tears, laughter and applause during reminiscences from Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Albright’s three daughters, Anne, Alice and Katharine, who remembered her as a doting “mom” and “Granny Maddy” to their own children even amid a hectic work schedule that often took her around the world.

That schedule didn’t let up when she left government service in 2001 and returned to teaching at Georgetown University, started a successful international consulting company, served on the boards of numerous women’s and human rights groups and became a best-selling author.

Hillary Clinton recalled stories that she had lobbied for Albright to serve as secretary of state, a role that Clinton would serve in herself during the Obama administration. “It’s been said that I urged my husband to nominate her as our first female secretary of state,” she said. “Unlike much that’s said, this story was true.”

The two developed a strong friendship over the years. and Hillary Clinton recalled a pair of stories about her and Albright on visits overseas during which they bonded.

Once on a walk in a drenching rainstorm in the Czech capital of Prague, Clinton said they laughed so hard they forgot they were wet. On another occasion in Beijing, Clinton recalled that she and Albright had marched through mud in a torrential downpour and confronted Chinese security forces to meet women’s rights activists.

Clinton in her own tribute recalled some lighter memories of Albright, including the time she taught the foreign minister of Botswana the Macarena and danced the night away with a young, handsome man at her daughter Chelsea’s wedding. She also remembered Albright as a fearless diplomat that broke barriers and then counseled, cajoled and inspired women to follow in her footsteps.

“The angels better be wearing their best pins and putting on their 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.”

On the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and one month before her death, The New York Times printed what would be Albright’s last published writing. She wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion would be a “historic error” that would cement his legacy as one of “infamy. “Until the end, she was still in a hurry to do good,” Clinton said.

Other top current officials who attended the service included Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA Director Bill Burns, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Mark Milley and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. The members of the VIP audience were masked, as Albright’s family had requested.

Foreign dignitaries invited to the funeral included the presidents of Georgia and Kosovo and senior 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 Soviet rule. They ended up in the United States, where she studied at Wellesley College and rose through the ranks of Democratic Party foreign policy circles to become ambassador to the United Nations. Bill Clinton selected her as secretary of state in 1996 for his second term.

Although never in line for the presidency because of her foreign birth, Albright was near universally admired for breaking a glass ceiling, even by her political detractors. Several senior Republican lawmakers, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, attended the service.

As a Czech refugee who saw the horrors of both Nazi Germany and the Iron Curtain, she was not a dove. She played a leading role in pressing for the Clinton administration to get involved militarily in the conflict in Kosovo. “My mindset is Munich,” she said frequently, 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 the Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over his treatment of Kosovar Albanians in 1999. As U.N. ambassador, she advocated a tough U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the case of Milosevic’s treatment of Bosnia. NATO’s intervention in Kosovo was eventually dubbed “Madeleine’s War.”

She also took a hard line on Cuba, famously saying at the United Nations that the 1996 Cuban shootdown of a civilian plane was not “cojones” but rather “cowardice.”

Bill Clinton recalled the moment in his tribute, remembering that Albright faced criticism at the time that the sharp barb was “undiplomatic” and “unladylike.” He absolutely loved it.

“I called her and I said … ‘This is the best line developed and delivered by anybody in this administration,” Clinton said.

In 2012, Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, saying her life was an inspiration to all Americans.

Born Marie Jana Korbel in Prague on May 15, 1937, she was the daughter of a diplomat, Joseph Korbel. The family was Jewish and converted to Roman Catholicism when she was 5. Three of her Jewish grandparents died in concentration camps.

Albright was an internationalist whose point of view was shaped in part by her background. Her family fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 as the Nazis took over their country, and she spent the war years in London.

After the war, as the Soviet Union took over vast chunks of Eastern Europe, her father brought 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 Condoleezza Rice, who would later succeed his daughter as secretary of state.

Albright graduated from Wellesley College in 1959. She worked as a journalist and later studied international relations at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1976. She then entered politics and what was at the time the male-dominated world of foreign policy professionals.

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