Former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary have paid tribute to Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be Secretary of State, who died from cancer at age 84, on Wednesday.
Albright, a mother-of-three, served under the Democratic president from 1997 to 2001 and was a longtime diplomat.
The Clinton’s said they were ‘profoundly saddened’ her death and with whom they were still very close with.
‘Madeleine’s passing is an immense loss to the world in a time when we need the lessons of her life the most, but we know her legacy will live on through all the students she taught so well at Georgetown,’ Clinton said in a lengthy statement.
‘She was one of the finest Secretaries of State, an outstanding UN Ambassador, a brilliant professor, and an extraordinary human being.
‘Few leaders have been so perfectly suited for the times in which they served,’ Clinton continued.
When Clinton first won the presidency in 1992, Albright helped with the transition from the Bush administration. She was offered a role as his ambassador to the United Nations.
Upon winning his second term in 1996, Clinton nominated her to be his Secretary of State.
‘When the end of the Cold War ushered in a new era of global interdependence, she became America’s voice at the UN, then took the helm at the State Department, where she was a passionate force for freedom, democracy, and human rights,’ Clinton wrote.
‘Because she knew firsthand that America’s policy decisions had the power to make a difference in people’s lives around the world, she saw her jobs as both an obligation and an opportunity. And she made the most of them in advancing peace, security, and shared prosperity: ending ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo; supporting the expansion of NATO into Central Europe; fighting the proliferation of nuclear weapons; broadening U.S. efforts to strengthen civil society, reduce poverty, and relieve debt in developing countries; elevating concerns about climate change and environmental degradation on the world stage; and much more.’
The Clinton’s revealed that the couple last spoke to Albright two weeks ago.
‘She never lost her great sense of humor or her determination to go out with her boots on, supporting Ukraine in its fight to preserve freedom and democracy.
‘Hillary and I will always be deeply grateful for the wonderful friendship we shared and the unfailingly wise counsel she gave us over so many years.’
During Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, Albright endorsed her introducing her with the phrase ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!’
Former President George W. Bush also paid tribute to Albright together with a painting he created of her.
He said Albright ‘lived out the American dream and helped others realize it.’
‘She served with distinction as a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies for peace in our world,’ Bush said in a statement. ‘I respect her love of country and public service, and Laura and I are grateful to have called Madeline Albright our friend.’
Albright was born in 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Her family fled to Britain in 1939 to avoid the Nazis and then the United States nearly a decade later, in 1948, to escape the communists’ grip on Czechoslovakia.
‘We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that position, passed away earlier today. The cause was cancer,’ her family announced on Wednesday afternoon.
She was confirmed unanimously in 1997.
Albright wasn’t in the presidential line of succession, however, because she wasn’t U.S.-born.
Clinton called her ‘one of the finest Secretaries of State, an outstanding U.N. Ambassador, a brilliant professor, and an extraordinary human being’ in a statement Wednesday.
‘Because she knew firsthand that America’s policy decisions had the power to make a difference in people’s lives around the world, she saw her jobs as both an obligation and an opportunity,’ Clinton said. ‘And through it all, even until our last conversation just two weeks ago, she never lost her great sense of humor or her determination to go out with her boots on, supporting Ukraine in its fight to preserve freedom and democracy.’
He later described how her early life fleeing two types of authoritarian system had colored her approach to diplomacy.
‘She understood clearly that people caught in the middle between Germany and Russia didn’t want to trade Hitler in for Stalin that they wanted to be free to chart their own course,’ he told CNN.
‘And she pursued policies that were consistent with that not only in central Europe but also where we were trying to bring stability and opportunity to people in Latin America and Asia.
‘She didn’t like authoritarian dictatorships and she didn’t like arbitrary violence.’
He said she refused to dwell on her health during their final conversation.
‘She spent the entire conversation talking about how Ukraine had to be defended,’ he said.
Hillary Clinton tweeted out her husband’s statement and added, ‘I will always be deeply grateful for the wonderful friendship Bill and I shared with Madeleine Albright and the unfailingly wise counsel she gave us over so many years.’
‘So many people around the world are alive and living better lives because of her service,’ said Clinton, who took over Albright’s top job at the State Department eight years later.
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been informed of Albright’s death as they were flying to Brussels for an emergency meeting of NATO leaders about Ukraine.
Upon landing, Biden sent out a statement calling her a ‘force’ and a woman who broke barriers ‘again and again.’
‘Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history,’ Biden said.
The president spoke of her immigrant past, saying she was a ‘refugee in need of safe haven.’
‘And like so many before her – and after – she was proudly American,’ Biden said.
‘A scholar, teacher, bestselling author, and later accomplished businesswoman, Secretary Albright continued to advise presidents and members of Congress with matchless skill and diplomatic acumen,’ Biden said. ‘In every role, she used her fierce intellect and sharp wit – and often her unmatched collection of pins – to advance America’s national security and promote peace around the world.’
‘America had no more committed champion of democracy and human rights than Secretary Albright, who knew personally and wrote powerfully of the perils of autocracy,’ he continued.
He said one of his highlights on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was working alongside Albright in the 1990s.