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First female US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright passes away at 84

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Washington: Madeleine Albright, the first female US secretary of state and one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation, died Wednesday of cancer at age 84, her family announced.

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Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright was an American diplomat who served as the 64th United States secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. She was the first female secretary of state in U.S. history. Albright immigrated with her family to the United States in 1948 from Czechoslovakia.

Tapped by president Bill Clinton as ambassador to the United Nations then as the US top diplomat, Albright was one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation.

In mourning her passing, Clinton said Albright had been “a force for freedom, democracy and human rights,” calling her death an “immense loss to the world.”

President Bill Clinton chose Albright as America’s top diplomat in 1996, and she served in that capacity for the last four years of the Clinton administration. She had previously been Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations.

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At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. government. She was not in the line of succession for the presidency, however, because she was a native of Czechoslovakia, born in Prague.

“She was surrounded by family and friends,” her family announced on Twitter. “We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend.” It said the cause was cancer.

The collection also includes the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Albright by President Barack Obama in 2012 along with items from the set of the television show Madam Secretary. The exhibition was on display from 2009 to 2018 at 22 presidential libraries and museums.

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. She also toed a hard line on Cuba, famously saying at the United Nations that the Cuban shootdown of a civilian plane was not “cojones” but rather “cowardice.”

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She advised women “to act in a more confident manner” and “to ask questions when they occur and don’t wait to ask.”

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent,” she told HuffPost Living in 2010.

When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked her in January 2007 whether she approved of Bush’s proposed “surge” in U.S. troops in bloodied Iraq, she responded: “I think we need a surge in diplomacy. We are viewed in the Middle East as a colonial power and our motives are suspect.”

Albright was an internationalist whose point of view was shaped in part by her background. Her family fled Czechoslovakia in 1939 as the Nazis took over their country, and she spent the war years in London.

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