Madeleine K. Albright, who died of cancer on March 23, 2022 at the age of 84 in the presence of her family and friends, was a professor, author, diplomat, and businesswoman who served as the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. Dr. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012. Dr. Albright, who was based in Washington, D.C, received a B.A. with Honors from Wellesley College, and Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government.
Dr. Albright had a long career in the US government. Under President Jimmy Carter, she was a member of the National Security Council and White House staff and served as Chief Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie. From 1989 to 1992, she served as President of the Center for National Policy. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. Albright served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and was a member of the President Clinton’s Cabinet.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Albright as the first female Secretary of State and she became, at that time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As Secretary of State in Clinton’s last 4 years, Dr. Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade, business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. Albright remained outspoken through the years. After leaving office, she criticized President George W. Bush for using “the shock of force” rather than alliances to foster diplomacy and said Bush had driven away moderate Arab leaders and created potential for a dangerous rift with European allies.
However, as a refugee from Czechoslovakia, she was not a dove and played a leading role in pressing for the Clinton administration to get militarily involved in the conflict in Kosovo against the Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over his treatment of Kosovar Albanians in 1999. “My mindset is Munich,” she said frequently, referring to the German city where the Western allies abandoned her homeland to the Nazis.
“I am an eternal optimist,” Albright said in 1998, amid an effort as Secretary of State to promote peace in the Middle East. But she said getting Israel to pull back on the West Bank and the Palestinians to rout terrorists posed serious problems. As America’s top diplomat, Albright made limited progress at first in trying to expand the 1993 Oslo Accords that established the principle of self-rule for the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza. But in 1998, she played a leading role in formulating the Wye Accords that turned over control of about 40% of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
During her tenure as Secretary of State, Dr. Albright organized the White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy which brought together a remarkable assemblage of nearly 200 cultural and artistic leaders from around the world who addressed a wide variety of issues, such as the vital role culture plays in diplomacy; the importance of preserving cultural diversity, sites, and artifacts, among many other topics.
The opening plenary on November 28, 2000 drew upon the insights of President Clinton and the First Lady Mrs. Clinton, Secretary of State Albright and six panelists of international renown including Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. Dr. Albright in her remarks as conference chair stated that “Cultural factors play a pivotal role in many of the international challenges we face, from establishing rules for trade to finding common ground in the pursuit of peace.” She stressed that “… our cultural programs are central — and I underline that — central — to the success of American foreign policy.”
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In his remarks, Mawlana Hazar Imam said that creative artists in much of Asia and Africa do not live in economies “… in which they can survive from their commitments to culture.” He emphasized that more must be done to assist cultural and educational institutions in the developing world, particularly in Africa and Asia “… where the humanities are not really taught to a significant level in the universities”. In a lively exchange, on the relationship between language and culture, as well as the impact of the Internet on communication among cultures, Mawlana Hazar Imam urged assistance in making English more widespread as a means for cultures to express themselves and carry their rich messages to broader audiences. (Please read article and also watch C-Span video including complete remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan HERE).
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Following her service in the Clinton administration, she headed a global strategy firm, Albright Stonebridge, and was chair of an investment advisory company that focused on emerging markets. Dr. Albright was a Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She also chaired the National Democratic Institute, and served as the president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation, and was Honorary Co-Chair of the World Refugee Council. In 2021 she was appointed Chair of the Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy.
Dr. Albright also wrote several books, and was a seven-time New York Times bestselling author. Her most recent book, Hell and Other Destinations was published in April 2020. Her other books include her autobiography, Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003); The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006); Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership (2008); Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009); Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 (2012), and Fascism: A Warning (2018).
Date posted: March 23, 2022.
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