ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
MARCH 23, 2022
Madeleine Albright was a brilliant diplomat, a visionary leader, a courageous pioneer, a dedicated mentor, and a great and good person who loved America deeply and dedicated her life to serving it. She was also a wonderful friend to many, including me. I will miss her very much.
Arriving here as a refugee at the age of 11, she never forgot the generosity America extended to her family when they needed it most. Having seen America at its best, she pushed relentlessly for us to live up to our role as a moral beacon and defender of freedom. And having experienced the horrors of war firsthand – fleeing Czechoslovakia after the Nazi invasion, then hiding in shelters as German bombs fell on London – she believed that the United States must respond forcefully to dictators and to tyrants. It created the Community of Democracies, a coalition of countries that promotes democratic values around the world. And thanks in large part to her, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO, and the United States defended ethnic Albanians in Kosovo against Serbian aggression. Today there is a square and a street in Kosovo named after Magdalene, and a statue of her stands in the capital.
When she was named Secretary of State, some openly questioned whether a woman could take on world leaders. Madeleine quickly dispelled these mistaken doubts. There was simply no doubt that in any room she was as tough as anyone and often tougher. That said, it hasn’t always been easy. She described her arrival at her first UN Security Council meeting as US Ambassador: “15 seats and 14 men, all looking at me.” But when she saw the plaque on her seat that read UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, her nerves vanished: “I thought if I don’t speak today, the voice of the United States won’t be heard. When I finally spoke, it was the first time I represented the country of my naturalization, the place where I belonged.
Madeleine mentored a generation of diplomats and national security experts. I am one of many who have benefited from his wisdom and encouragement. And in her post-state career, she dedicated herself to teaching, continuing to invest in our future diplomats and leaders.
After leaving the State Department, when asked if she was relieved to not have to deal with crises around the world, she simply replied, “I miss it every day.” She loved this country. She loved this department. And we loved him back.
To our very first Madam Secretary – thank you.