WASHINGTON — A veritable who’s who of Washington’s political and foreign elite gathered on Wednesday to pay their last respects to the late Madeleine Albright, a child of a conflict-ridden Europe who arrived in the United States at the age 11 and became America’s first female secretary of state.
President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton happily remember the pioneering diplomat and champion of her adopted country as the world’s “indispensable nation” as a sensible and valued adviser who did not suffer from fools or tyrants and who was most concerned about Russia’s war. with Ukraine when she died last month of cancer aged 84.
Biden said Albright’s name is synonymous with the idea that America is “a force for good in the world.”
“In the 20th and 21st centuries, freedom had no greater champion than Madeleine Korbel Albright,” he said. “Today we honor a truly proud American who made us all more proud to be Americans.”
He said he learned of Albright’s death while traveling to Brussels for an emergency NATO summit on Ukraine and was struck by the memory of his key role in pressure for alliance expansion following the collapse of the Soviet Union to protect Europe. a repeat of the carnage of World War II and the Cold War ideological battle between communism and democracy.
And Clinton, the man who named her first UN ambassador in 1993 and then secretary of state in 1996, said his last conversation with Albright a few weeks before his death was dominated by the situation in Ukraine and its fears about the future of democracy. at home and abroad.
He recalled that Albright did not want to talk about his declining health at a time when the West is on edge over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Albright, Clinton recalled, assured her that she was getting the best possible care, but didn’t want to “waste time” talking about it.
“The only thing that really matters is what kind of world we’re going to leave for our grandchildren,” Clinton recalled, Albright told her. He added: “She made the decision with her last breath that 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 incumbent Antony Blinken, were some 1,400 mourners who attended the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington.
The service was punctuated with tears, laughter and applause as Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Albright’s three daughters, Anne, Alice and Katharine, remembered her as a “mom ” adored and of a “grandmother Maddy” for their own children. even in the midst of a busy work schedule that often took her around the world.
This program did not end when she left public service in 2001 and returned to teach at Georgetown University, started a successful international consulting firm, served on the boards of numerous women’s groups and human rights advocacy and became a bestselling author.
Hillary Clinton recalled stories that she lobbied for Albright to become secretary of state, a role Clinton would play in her own right under the Obama administration. “It has been said that I urged my husband to name her our first female secretary of state,” she said. “Contrary to many things being said, this story was true.”
The two have developed a strong friendship over the years. and Hillary Clinton recalled a pair of stories about her and Albright during overseas visits in which they bonded.
Once on a walk in the pouring rain in the Czech capital, Prague, Clinton said they laughed so much they forgot they were wet. On another occasion in Beijing, Clinton recalled that she and Albright walked through mud in a torrential downpour and clashed with Chinese security forces to meet with women’s rights activists.
Clinton, in her own tribute, recalled some lighter memories of Albright, including when she taught the Macarena to Botswana’s foreign minister and danced the night away with a handsome young man at her daughter’s wedding. Chelsea. She also remembered Albright as a fearless diplomat who broke down barriers, then advised, cajoled and inspired women to follow in her footsteps.
“Angels better wear their best pins and put on their dancing shoes,” Clinton said. “Because if, like Madeleine believed there was a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women, they’ve never seen anyone like her yet.”