Madeleine Albright honoured by world leaders and Washington elite

President Biden, former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton eulogised the first woman secretary of state

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US President Joe Biden led the eulogies at the funeral of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright on Wednesday at a cathedral service featuring hundreds from the Washington political and diplomatic elite.

Albright, the first woman to head the State Department, died last month, aged 84.

Taking place at Washington's National Cathedral, the pews were packed with current and former US leaders, including former president Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, former president Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former vice president Al Gore.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry, former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were also in attendance.

World leaders attend Madeleine Albright's funeral

World leaders attend Madeleine Albright's funeral
World leaders attend Madeleine Albright's funeral

“She made sure that young women knew they belonged in every single table having to do with national security, without exception,” Mr Biden said in his address.

“Today, across our government and around the world, Madeleine’s proteges are legion. Many are here today, each carrying with them a spark lit by her passion and her brilliance.”

Also delivering tributes were Mr Clinton, who appointed Albright as secretary of state, Ms Clinton, and Albright's three daughters, Anne, Alice and Katherine.

“We can’t just be actors, we have to be actors in our own history,” said Mr Clinton. “Sit on our shoulders and nag us to death until we do the right thing.”

Ms Clinton, who maintained a personal relationship with Albright, made reference to her friend and colleague's signature brooches and dancing skills, which drew a rare moment of applause during the solemn occasion.

“The angels better be wearing their best pins and putting on their dancing shoes because, as if Madeline believed, there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women, they haven’t seen anyone like her yet,” said Ms Clinton.

“She also delivered blunt warnings about authoritarianism and fascism with undeniable moral clarity. Until the end, she was always in a hurry to do good.”

Musical interludes were performed by trumpeter Chris Botti, who performed Hallelujah, as well as pianist Herbie Hancock.

Foreign dignitaries in attendance included the presidents of Georgia and Kosovo and senior officials from Colombia, Bosnia and the Czech Republic.

The pallbearers were former members of Albright’s Diplomatic Security Service and protective detail from her time as both US ambassador to the UN and as secretary of state.

At the time of her death, Mr Biden hailed Albright as someone who “turned the tide of history” and “defied convention and broke barriers again and again”.

Albright took the helm of the State Department in 1997, dealing with a post-Cold War world in which the US had emerged as the sole superpower.

She led crucial discussions with world leaders on arms control, trade, terrorism and the future of Nato.

First woman US secretary of state Madeleine Albright dies

First woman US secretary of state Madeleine Albright dies
First woman US secretary of state Madeleine Albright dies

Albright was born in the former Czechoslovakia and fled the approaching Nazis with her family to London. She then entered the US as a refugee in 1948, as Soviet communism spread across Eastern Europe after the Second World War.

Reflecting on her rise to secretary of state, which came after decades of building influence in Democratic party circles, Albright quipped that previously “the only way a woman could truly make her foreign policy views felt was by marrying a diplomat and then pouring tea on an offending ambassador's lap”.

Notably absent were Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden. Ms Harris tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday and is isolating.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: April 28, 2022, 2:48 AM

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