Madeleine Albright, the 64th U.S. secretary of state and the first woman to ever serve in the role, has died of cancer, her family said. She was 84.
In a statement posted to her Twitter page, Albright’s family wrote that she died Wednesday “surrounded by family and friends. “
The news of Albright’s death was announced while Ned Price (State Department spokesperson) held a daily briefing. He said that the building’s impact was felt in every corner every day, and added, “She was a trailblazer.” “
Albright rose in American politics before becoming the secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton in 1997. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Clinton released Wednesday a statement calling Albright an “extraordinary human being” along with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
” Few leaders are so well-suited to the time in which they serve,” said the Clintons. Madeleine was a war-torn child who had to leave her home twice. She became America’s representative at the U.N. and then headed the State Department. There she advocated for democracy, freedom, human rights, and the preservation of international interdependence. “
Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague in 1939. She was born to Jewish parents and fled Nazi-occupied Germany just two years later. The couple moved to Britain, where they converted to Catholicism. Albright lost more than twenty-six of her relatives in the Holocaust, three of which were her grandparents. Albright was unaware of her history — even that she had Jewish heritage — until it was uncovered by The Washington Post in 1997.
” I have always considered myself a Czechoslovak Catholic,” Albright stated in an interview with The Washington Post. My parents believed they were children of free Czechoslovakia. It was the only democracy in central Europe. It was their pride [and], and it is the culture I grew-up with. “
Albright’s family returned to Czechoslovakia after the war and her father served as a Czech ambassador, but they were forced to flee again after the country fell in a Communist coup in 1949. The family fled to America as refugees.
“Becoming a U.S. citizen is the most important thing that ever happened to me,” Albright said in an email to then-President Barack Obama ahead of the 2016 U.N. Refugee Summit. My father used to say that people in Europe would tell you, “We’re sorry for all your problems and we hope you’re well.” And, by the way: When will you leave home to return home? People in America said, “We’re sorry for all your problems and we hope you get everything you need.” ‘”
Albright graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 – one of the most prestigious women’s colleges – and later founded the Albright Institute at her alma mater. Further degrees were earned at Columbia University’s School of Advanced International Studies and Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
While attending Wellesley she met Joseph Medill Albright of the Medill newspaper family. The two married after a “whirlwind” romance and had three daughters: premature twins Alice and Anne, and a third daughter, Katherine. The child died in the second pregnancy of the twins Katherine and Alice. Albright later stated that this was probably due to Katherine contracting German measles during her pregnancy. Her marriage fell apart in 1982, but she wrote in her book, “at the time, I would have given up any thought of a career if it would have made Joe change his mind. “
Albright’s career began in the 1970s as an aide to U.S. The Senator Edmund Muskie would become Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter. She continued working in U.S. politics, becoming a staff member of the National Security Council in 1978 under Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had recruited her from Columbia.
Although she served as a foreign policy adviser to three Democratic presidential candidates (Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Clinton in 1992), she was not a household name when Clinton selected her to become ambassador to the United Nations.
It was a crucial moment in history after the fall of the Soviet Union, and much of Albright’s work had been focused on Eastern Europe, including a fellowship she received based on her writings on the role of the press in political changes in Poland during the early 1980s.
While serving as U.N. ambassador, Albright experienced what she called the “deepest regret” of her career – the failure of the international community to stop the genocide in Rwanda. This was a huge killing that happened in such a short time. Hundreds of thousands of people died very quickly,” she told PBS in 2004.
Clinton and Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali clashed as they advocated for democratic and U.S. interests. Boutros-Ghali would later write in his memoir that the pair “betrayed” him when she cast a decisive veto against him serving another term as secretary-general in 1996. Just weeks later, Clinton appointed Albright secretary of state.
” “As secretary of state, I will try my best not to speak about foreign policy in abstract terms but in human terms.” she stated at that time. This is vital, because we can’t pursue foreign policy that doesn’t have support here in the United States.
She was unanimously confirmed in the U.S. Senate.
A tough-talking diplomat she once said that when two U.S. aircraft were shot down by Cuban fighter planes, “this isn’t cojones. This is cowardice.” “
After the painful lessons in Rwanda and Bosnia – where she had unsuccessfully advocated for a tougher line against the Serbs during the invasion of Bosnian capital Sarajevo in 1995 – she oversaw the NATO bombings in Kosovo after Serbians began a program of ethnic cleansing over Albanians. NATO responded with an 11-week campaign of air strikes in 1999 that extended to Belgrade, which Time magazine later called “Madeleine’s War.”
Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslav leader, once said to her, “Madame Secretary,” prompting her to respond, “Don’t say I’m not informed — I live here.” She was a tireless advocate for Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic’s admission to NATO. She declared “Hallelujah!” At the signing ceremony.
After many years as a diplomat with less power, Albright became a star in America and around the world. Rumours even circulated that she might run for President in the Czech Republic. After President George W. Bush’s victory in 2000, she returned to Georgetown University, where she had taught in the 1980s. In 2005 she started a consulting firm, Albright Capital Management, focusing on emerging markets.
She remained active in Democratic party politics, supporting her old friend Hillary Clinton in 2008 and then Obama for the Democratic nomination. She continued her campaign for Clinton and stated that Donald Trump “damaged” America’s standing in the international arena.
Albright continued to follow foreign affairs, telling “CBS News” Margaret Brennan in 2014 that she did not trust Russian President Vladimir Putin. Later, she would refer to Trump as “the most undemocratic President I have ever seen” in her book “Fascism .. “
Although Albright was the first woman to serve as secretary of state, two of the next three secretaries of state were women (Condoleezza Rice and Clinton), leading her granddaughter to say, “So what’s the big deal about Grandma Maddy being secretary of state? “I thought that only women are secretary of states.”