Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the position, died Wednesday from cancer, her family said in a statement.
Secretary Albright was 84 years old.
Born in Prague, Secretary Albright immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee in 1948. She was an alumnus of Wellesley College and later earned her doctorate from Columbia University. Early on, Ms. Albright worked for the Denver Post, and her career led her to work in the White House during the Carter administration and on the National Security Council under National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Ms. Albright was picked to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations earlier in the Clinton administration. President Bill Clinton then picked her to serve as the U.S. secretary of state, a position she held from 1997-2001.
Secretary Albright was known as a fierce advocate for human rights, a brilliant foreign policy expert and a trailblazer.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said, “Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history.”
“To make this country that she loved even better — she defied convention and broke barriers again and again,” the president said. “Working with Secretary Albright during the 1990s was among the highlights of my career in the United States Senate during my tenure on the Foreign Relations Committee. As the world redefined itself in the wake of the Cold War, we were partners and friends working to welcome newly liberated democracies into NATO and confront the horrors of genocide in the Balkans. When I think of Madeleine, I will always remember her fervent faith that ‘America is the indispensable nation.’”
“The impact that she has had on this building is felt every single day in just about every single corridor,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
A noted brooch aficionado, Secretary Albright is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She founded the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College and was a lifetime trustee of the Aspen Institute.
At the time of her death, she was a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation and chair of the National Democratic Institute — among a whole host of other titles and honors, not least of all mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend.
“Secretary Albright was so vibrant and her experience made her a force to be reckoned with,” said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “She helped build coalitions with our allies and refused to give in to the bullying of dictators. She never failed to speak her mind, and she was confident that she could help make the world a better place. Even after leaving political office, Secretary Albright’s insights and expertise helped shape U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy.”
U.S Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., worked with Secretary Albright through her work with the Truman Scholarship Program and the Truman Library in Kansas City.
“Secretary Albright broke barriers and made a difference. After serving as secretary of state, she continued to be an important voice in our foreign policy discussions,” Sen. Blunt said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her insight and perspective over the years.”
Secretary Albright was surrounded by family and friends at the time of her death, her family said.