WASHINGTON — World leaders and US political and foreign policy elite pay their respects to the late Madeleine Albright, the child refugee from war-torn Europe who rose to become America’s first female secretary of state.
Led by US President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, the man who picked Albright to be his top diplomat and the highest-ranking woman ever in the US government at that time, some 1,400 mourners gathered to celebrate her life and accomplishments at Washington National Cathedral.
Albright died of cancer last month at age 84, prompting an outpouring of condolences from around the world that also hailed her support for democracy and human rights. Besides the current and former presidents, the service is attended by at least three of her successors as secretary of state along with other current and former cabinet members, foreign diplomats, lawmakers and an array of others who knew her.
Biden, who delivered a tribute to Albright, says her name is synonymous with the idea that America is “a force for good in the world.”
“In the 20th and 21st century, freedom had no greater champion than Madeleine Korbel Albright,” Biden says. “Today we honor a truly proud American who made all of us prouder to be Americans.”
Albright was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, but her family fled twice, first from the Nazis and then from Soviet rule. They ended up in the United States, where she studied at Wellesley College and rose through the ranks of Democratic Party foreign policy circles to become ambassador to the United Nations. Bill Clinton selected her as secretary of state in 1996 for his second term.