Current and former presidents, vice presidents, secretaries of state and scores of other dignitaries gathered at Washington National Cathedral Wednesday at the funeral service of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who died last month from cancer at 84.
President Biden delivered the first eulogy for Albright, the country's first female secretary of state.
“She could go toe-to-toe with the toughest dictators, then turn around and literally teach a fellow ambassador how to do the Macarena on the floor of the U.N. Security Council,” Biden said.
Biden recalled that during his recent trip to Europe to meet with U.S. allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the mention of her name elicited a “deafening cheer.”
“It was not lost on me that Madeleine was a big part of the reason NATO was still strong, and galvanized, as it is today,” he said. “Her name is still synonymous with America as a force for good in the world. Madeleine never minced words or wasted time when she saw something that needed fixing or someone who needed helping. She just got to work.”
Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice were among the 1,400 in attendance at the service. Both Clintons spoke.
“She was smart, tough-minded, talented,” said Bill Clinton, who nominated Albright as the first woman to be America's top diplomat in 1997. “She had a great sense of humor and a clear grasp on the post-Cold War world we were moving into.”
“It has been said I urged my husband to nominate her as our first female secretary of state,” Hillary Clinton said. “Unlike much that’s said, this story was true.”
She told mourners that Albright issued “blunt warnings about the dangers posed by authoritarianism and fascism with undeniable moral clarity,” and was outspoken and needed to be.
“Silence may be golden, but it won't win many arguments,” Clinton said. “You have to interrupt. When dictators dragged their feet or ambassadors filibustered, Madeleine never hesitated to speak up. And just in case they didn't get the message, she would put on a snail pin to signal her impatience.”
Clinton said that in a phone call two weeks before she died, Albright “talked about the importance of what President Biden is doing to rally the world against Putin’s horrific invasion of Ukraine, and the urgent work of defending democracy at home and around the world.
“She knew better than most — and she warned us in her book on fascism — that yes, it can happen here. And time and courage are of the essence.”
“If Madeleine were here with us today, she would also remind us this must be a season of action,” Clinton added. “Stand up to dictators and demagogues from the battlefields of Ukraine to the halls of our own Capitol. Defend democracy at home just as vigorously as we do abroad.”