Bill Clinton has paid tribute to the “extraordinary” Madeleine Albright, who has died of cancer at the age of 84 after making history as the United States’ first female secretary of state.
President Bill Clinton chose Albright as America’s top diplomat in 1996, and she served in that role for the last four years of his administration.
At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States government. However, she was not in the line of succession to the presidency because she was a native of Czechoslovakia.
He said: “Hillary and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Madeleine Albright. She was one of the best secretaries of state, an outstanding ambassador to the UN, a brilliant teacher and an extraordinary human being.”
Clinton added: “Few leaders have been so perfect for the times they served.”
Albright, who fled the Nazis as a child in her native Czechoslovakia during World War II and described herself as “a grateful American,” was a tough-talking diplomat in an administration that was hesitant to get involved in the two biggest crises. foreign policy of the century. 1990s: the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Former President George W. Bush said he was “heartbroken” by the news, saying Albright had “lived the American dream.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called her “a force for freedom.”
Among the tributes was one from her friend and former tennis player Billie Jean King, who said she was “a pioneering spirit.”
Albright’s experience as a refugee prompted her to push for the United States to be a superpower that would use that influence.
She wanted “muscular internationalism,” said James O’Brien, Albright’s senior adviser during the Bosnian war, and once upset a Pentagon chief by asking why the military kept more than 1 million men and women under weapons if they never used them. .
Early in the Clinton administration, while unsuccessfully advocating for a faster and stronger response in Bosnia, Albright backed a United Nations war crimes tribunal that eventually jailed the architects of that war, including Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. and Bosnian Serb leaders, O Brien said.
Once the Clinton years and the 1990s were over, Albright became an icon for a generation of young women seeking inspiration in their pursuit of opportunity and respect in the workplace.
Albright liked to say, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Her sense of style and use of flashy pieces of jewelry made her a stark contrast to her male predecessors in her outfits.
She used her clothing and jewelry to send political messages, one of her favorites being a snake brooch, a reference to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein calling her a “peerless snake.”
She wrote a book about her jewelry, one of several bestsellers, explaining that pins were a diplomatic tool. Balloons or flower brooches would indicate that she was feeling optimistic, while a crab or turtle would indicate frustration.
Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague on May 15, 193, and her family fled to London in 1939 when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia.
She was raised Catholic, but her family was Jewish and dozens of relatives, including three grandparents, died in the Holocaust.
After the war, the family returned to Czechoslovakia, but moved to the United States when the communists took control of the country.