Madeleine Albright, 1st female US Secretary of State, has died
WASHINGTON (AP) — Madeleine Albright, a child refugee from Nazi and then Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe who became the first American woman
WASHINGTON (AP) — Madeleine Albright, a child refugee from Nazi-then Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe who became the first female U.S. secretary of state and a mentor to many U.S. statesmen and women current and former, died of cancer, her family said Wednesday. She was 84 years old.
A lifelong Democrat who nonetheless worked to bring Republicans into her orbit, Albright was chosen by former President Bill Clinton to be America’s top diplomat in 1996, elevating her from her position as US ambassador to the United Nations. , where she was only the second wife. to fill this position.
As Secretary of State, Albright was the most senior woman in the history of the United States government. She was, however, not in the line of succession to the presidency, as she was originally from Prague. The glass ceiling she broke was universally admired, even by her political critics.
Announcing her death on Twitter, Albright’s family said she passed away from cancer and was surrounded by family and friends: “We have lost a mother, a grandmother, a loving sister, aunt and friend,” the statement read.
The outpouring of condolences came quickly.
“Laura and I are heartbroken at the news of Madeleine Albright’s death,” former President George W. Bush said. “She lived the American Dream and helped others achieve it…She served with distinction as a foreign-born Secretary of State who understood first-hand the importance of free societies to the peace in our world.I respect her love of country and public service, and Laura and I are grateful to have called Madeline Albright our friend.
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been briefed on Albright’s death while traveling to Brussels for an emergency meeting of NATO leaders on Ukraine.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US envoy to the United Nations, honored Albright as a “pioneer and luminary” in remarks to the General Assembly shortly after her death was announced.
“The impact she had on this building is felt every day and in just about every hallway,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price, who once co-taught a course with Albright at his alma mater, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. , where Albright was a professor for decades before and after his time in government.
“She was a trailblazer as the first female secretary of state and literally opened doors for so many of our staff,” he said.
In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, saying his life was an inspiration to all Americans.
Albright has remained outspoken over the years. After leaving office, she criticized President George W. Bush for using ‘clash of force’ rather than alliances to foster diplomacy and said Bush drove out moderate Arab leaders and created potential for disruption dangerous with the European allies.
However, as a refugee from Czechoslovakia who saw the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Iron Curtain, she was no dove and played a leading role in pushing for the Clinton administration to stand up. involved militarily in the conflict in Kosovo.
She also took a hard line on Cuba, telling the United Nations that the Cuban downing of a civilian plane was not “cojones” but rather “cowardice”.
She advised women to “act more confidently” and “ask questions when they come up and not wait to ask”.
“It took me a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I’m not going to shut up,” she told HuffPost Living in 2010.
When asked by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2007 if she approved of Bush’s proposed “boosting” of US troops in a bloody Iraq, she replied, “I think we need a boost in diplomacy.” We are seen in the Middle East as a colonial power and our motives are suspect.
Albright was an internationalist whose perspective 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, as the Soviet Union took over large swaths of Eastern Europe, his father, a Czech diplomat, took his family to the United States.
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. In her UN post, she advocated a harsh American foreign policy, particularly in the case of Milosevic’s treatment of Bosnia and NATO’s intervention in Kosovo eventually came to be dubbed “the Magdalen War.”
“My mindset is Munich,” she would frequently say, referring to the German city where the Western Allies abandoned their homeland to the Nazis.
Albright helped secure Senate ratification of NATO expansion and a treaty imposing international restrictions on chemical weapons. She led a successful fight to prevent the Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali from a second term as UN Secretary General. He accused her of cheating and pretending to be a friend.
And she once exclaimed to Colin Powell, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who would later succeed her as secretary of state, “What’s the point of having this great army you always talk about if we can’t we use this?”
Powell, who died last year, recalled in a memoir that Albright’s comments almost caused him to have an “aneurysm”.
“I am an eternal optimist,” Albright said in 1998, amid an effort as secretary of state to promote peace in the Middle East. But she said getting Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and the Palestinians to rout the terrorists posed serious problems.
As a senior US diplomat, Albright initially made limited progress trying to expand the 1993 Oslo Accords that established the principle of autonomy for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But in 1998, she played a leading role in formulating the Wye Accords that transferred control of around 40% of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
She also led an ill-fated effort to broker a 2000 peace deal between Israel and Syria under the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. And, she helped guide US foreign policy during the Balkan conflicts and the Hutu-Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
As an outspoken Democrat in private life, Albright often joked that she had her “political instincts” surgically removed when she became Secretary of State. True to this, she struck up an unlikely friendship with arch-conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms to boost funding for the State Department and US diplomacy and oversaw a sea change in Washington’s handling of messages from the Cold War era.
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 years old. Three of his Jewish grandparents died in concentration camps.
Albright later said she became aware of her Jewish background after becoming Secretary of State. The family returned to Czechoslovakia after World War II but fled again, this time to the United States, in 1948, after the Communists came to power.
They settled in Denver, where her father got a job at the University of Denver. One of Josef Korbel’s top students, a young woman named Condoleezza Rice, would later succeed her daughter as Secretary of State, the first black woman to hold the post.
Current officials who have worked closely with Albright include Biden’s domestic policy adviser and former UN ambassador Susan Rice, as well as Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and a host of others.
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 doctorate. in 1976.
She worked for the National Security Council during the Carter administration and advised Democrats on foreign policy before Clinton was elected. He named her US Ambassador to the UN in 1993.
After her service in the Clinton administration, she led a global strategy firm, Albright Stonebridge, and was president of an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets.
She has also written several books. Albright married journalist Joseph Albright, a scion of Chicago’s Medill-Patterson newspaper dynasty, in 1959. They had three daughters and divorced in 1983.
The late Associated Press diplomatic correspondent Barry Schweid contributed to this report.
Matthew Lee, The Associated Press