Madeleine Albright, who in 1997 became the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, died of cancer on Wednesday. Current and former politicians from the U.S. and abroad mourned Albright’s death.
Former President Bill Clinton, who chose Albright to lead the State Department, was one of the first to release a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Hillary and I are profoundly saddened by the passing of Madeleine Albright,” the statement said. “She was one of the finest Secretaries of State, an outstanding UN Ambassador, a brilliant professor, and an extraordinary human being.”
Clinton added that Albright was a friend of theirs, saying she gave them “wise counsel” for years.
“Madeleine’s passing is an immense loss to the world in a time when we need the lessons of her life the most, but we know her legacy will live on through all the students she taught so well at Georgetown, everyone who was inspired by her remarkable journey from refugee to Secretary of State, and the many people around the world who are alive and living better lives because of her service,” he said.
Condoleezza Rice, who under President George W. Bush became the second woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, called Albright “an American giant whose life and legacy will be remembered for generations to come.”
“She was not only a trailblazer for women worldwide, but a fearless fighter for freedom on behalf of all humanity,” Rice said in a statement. “For me personally, I have lost an invaluable colleague and a very dear friend who I will miss tremendously.”
Bush said he was “heartbroken” by the news of Albright’s death.
“She served with distinction as a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies for peace in our world,” the former president wrote in a statement on his website. “I respect her love of country and public service, and Laura and I are grateful to have called Madeleine Albright our friend.”
In a statement, former President Barack Obama said Albright “was a champion for democratic values.”
“It’s because of people like Madeleine that the story of America is, ultimately, one of hope – an upward journey,” Obama wrote.
The White House also released a statement Wednesday evening.
“Madeleine Albright was a force,” President Biden wrote. “Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history.”
“When I think of Madeleine, I will always remember her fervent faith that ‘America is the indispensable nation,'” the president added.
Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Albright a “brilliant diplomat, a visionary leader, a courageous trailblazer, a dedicated mentor, and a great and good person who loved the United States deeply and devoted her life to serving it.”
“After leaving the State Department, when asked if she was relieved not to be dealing with crises around the world, she’d say simply, ‘I miss it every day,'” Blinken wrote. “She loved this country. She loved this Department. And we loved her back.”
CIA Director William J. Burns wrote “the United States has lost a remarkable public servant, a wonderful role model for generations, and an eloquent voice in our national discourse.”
“Above all, Secretary Albright was deeply proud of having served as our country’s first female secretary of state, but her legacy was so much more,” Burns said. “Extraordinarily hardworking and adept at managing tough challenges and even tougher people, she had an uncanny ability to break down complex issues in a practical and relatable way.”
Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, tweeted in response to the news.
“Saddened to hear the news of @Madeleine Albright’s death. She was a force for freedom, an outspoken champion of #NATO, an inspirational colleague and friend,” he wrote. “My deepest condolences to her family & the American people.”
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff tweeted that Albright was a “personal friend and visionary” and “one of the fiercest champions of democratic values and human rights in history.”
The Albright Stonebridge Group, which Albright co-founded and chaired, also tweeted its condolences.
“She was an unparalleled force in world affairs, American diplomacy, and the global business community, and will be dearly missed.”
Albright’s alma mater, Wellesley College, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying her death was a “heartbreaking loss for our country and for Wellesley.”
- Madeleine Albright
Sophie Reardon is a News Editor at CBS News. Reach her at [email protected]