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Madeleine Albright, first female US Secretary of State, 84 years old

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Madeleine Albright, who came to the United States as a refugee and made history as the first woman to be Secretary of State, has died. she was 84

A family statements read: “We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine Albright, the 64th US Secretary of State…passed away earlier today.

“The cause was cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend.”

Related: Madeleine Albright: ‘The things that are happening are genuinely bad’

Joe Biden hailed Albright as “a force for kindness, grace, and decency, and for freedom.”

“His hands were the ones that changed the course of history,” the president said.

Bill Clinton, President Albright served, paid tribute to “one of the best secretaries of state, an outstanding ambassador to the UN, a brilliant professor and an extraordinary human being”.

Born Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague in 1937 but known as Madeleine from childhood, Albright fled with her family to London in 1939 after the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia. She came to the United States in 1948.

She was raised Catholic and only decades later found out that her parents were Jewish and that several members of her family were killed in the Holocaust.

After Clinton’s election in 1992, Albright was first ambassador to the United Nations and then secretary of state. The dominant themes of foreign policy at the time were the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in the years before 9/11. of September.

Albright became secretary of state in 1997, then the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States government. She made her fourth in line for the presidency, although like her predecessors Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, she would not have been able to hold the position, not being a natural-born American citizen, as defined in the constitution.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “Secretary Albright’s impact … on this building is felt every day in almost every hallway. She was a pioneer.”

Ben Rhodes, former foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, said: “Madeleine Albright was always extremely generous and uplifting to young people joining homeland security…she always reached out, opened her home and shared her wisdom.”

Val Demings, Florida Congressman and Senate Candidate, called Albright “not just a… glass ceiling breaker [but] a brilliant, passionate and dedicated public servant.”

bill clinton said “Few leaders have adapted so perfectly to the times in which they served” and called Albright “a passionate force for freedom, democracy and human rights.”

Hillary Clinton, successor as Secretary of State, remembered Albright’s “unerringly wise advice” and said, “Many people around the world are alive and living better lives because of your service.”

Bill Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, greeted “a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies to peace in our world.”

Madeleine Albright shakes hands with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in February 2000. Photographer: Mikhail Metzel/AP

The threat of authoritarianism was the subject of Albright’s latest book, Fascism: A Warning, published in 2018.

“Democracy is not the easiest form of government,” he told The Guardian at the time. “It does require attention and participation and compliance with the social contract. And it doesn’t deliver immediately. What we have to learn is how to make democracy work because people want to vote and eat.”

In his book, Albright called Donald Trump “the first anti-democratic president in modern United States history” and “actually very smart, evil smart, I think.”

But she set her sights on the whole world.

“The things that are happening are genuinely bad,” he said. “Some of them are really bad. They have nothing to do with Trump; it is the evolution of a number of different trends.”

Four years later, as Vladimir Putin was building up Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, Albright published a column in the New York Times in which he recalled being the first major American figure to meet the Russian leader, in Moscow in 2000.

“Flying home,” he wrote, “I recorded my impressions. ‘Putin is small and pale,’ I wrote, ‘so cold that he almost looks like a reptile.’ He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall, but he did not expect the entire Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is ashamed of what happened to his country and he is determined to restore it to greatness.”

If Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, Albright said, he would be making a historic mistake. A month later, Russian troops are mired in brutal fighting and Russia is an international pariah.

On Wednesday, speaking from Europe and speaking with particular resonance as NATO faces a renewed Russian threat, Biden said: “As the world redefined itself after the cold war, we were partners and friends working to welcome democracies recently liberated NATO and face the horrors of genocide in the Balkans.”

Related: Joe Biden heads to Europe in effort to keep pressure on Russia

In her interview with The Guardian, Albright said that the United States had a problem with women in politics.

“I don’t get it, frankly,” he said. “We’re very good at being No. 1 at a lot of things, and yet we’re not No. 1 at this, and I don’t know the answer. Because there are certainly very qualified women.

“When my name came up to be secretary of state, you’d think I was an alien, you know? People actually said, ‘Arabs won’t deal with a woman.'”

Lamenting Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump, he said: “I think she would have been an extraordinary president. And I think she’s very disappointing.”

In 2012, Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In awarding the award, Obama said: “Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man approached [Albright] and said, ‘Only in the United States can a refugee meet with the secretary of state.’

“And she said, ‘Only in the United States can a refugee become secretary of state.'”

On Wednesday, Obama said: “Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Albright family and all who knew and served with a truly remarkable woman.”

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