Madeleine Albright eulogised by Biden and Clinton as ‘force of nature’ who was ‘always the first’ to warn of fascism

‘With her goodness and grace, her humanity and her intellect, she turned the tide of history’

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Wednesday 27 April 2022 21:44 BST
Biden pays tribute at Madeleine Albright's funeral.mp4

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was remembered by two presidents and one of her successors as a tireless crusader for democracy at a Wednesday memorial service attended by a veritable who’s who of the US foreign policy establishment over the past three decades.

Albright, who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997 and led the US State Department from 1997 to 2001, was the first woman to serve in either post. She passed away on 23 March after a long battle with cancer.

After her casket was escorted into Washington’s National Cathedral by a group of former Diplomatic Security Service special agents who served on her security detail, President Joe Biden — the first of three eulogisers — described the trailblazing diplomat as “a force of nature” and “a truly proud American who made all of us prouder to be Americans”.

"With her goodness and grace, her humanity and her intellect, she turned the tide of history,” said Mr Biden, who recalled how he’d learned of her passing while en route to an emergency Nato summit to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Biden said Albright “was a big part” of why the alliance has remained “strong and galvanised” long after the end of the Cold War, and described the “deafening cheer” he received during a speech in Warsaw when he mentioned her name.

“It was spontaneous — it was real,” he said. “Her name is still synonymous with America as a force for good in the world.”

Mr Biden also recalled how Albright remained a “nexus” of the US foreign policy community long after she left the State Department, and said the ex-diplomat was “always … on top of the latest developments, always speaking out for democracy, and always the first to sound the alarm about fascism”.

The man who chose her as the first woman to lead the State Department, former president Bill Clinton, said he last spoke to Albright two weeks before she passed, and recounted how she did not want to waste time discussing her health because “the only thing that matter[ed]” was “what kind of world we’re going to leave to our grandchildren”.

“Madeleine made a decision that with her last breath, she would go out with her boots on,” Mr Clinton said, by “supporting President Biden and all of America's efforts to help Ukraine”.

The former president said he asked Albright to serve as Secretary of State “because her life story” — that of an immigrant who came to America as a refugee — “was about to become the story of the last part of the 20th century and much of the world,” and because Albright “could be the voice of America at its’ best”.

“She had a full, hopeful life because she knew what she believed in, what she was for. She knew what she was against. And she wanted other people feel the same way and talk about it instead of killing each other over it,” he said.

The 67th US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, remembered Albright — who was the 64th — as a role model for countless young women who she mentored through the Albright Institute at her alma mater, Wellesley College, and recalled how she had urged her to “push the envelope on women’s rights” in a landmark speech she delivered to the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing.

“She spent her entire life counselling, cajoling, inspiring and lifting up so many of us are here today,” Ms Clinton said, adding that angels in heaven will be “wearing their best pins and putting on their dancing shoes” to welcome Albright.

“Because if as Madeline believed there's a special place in hell for women who don't support other women, they haven't seen anyone like her yet”.

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