It is an honour to join in this tribute to Madeleine Albright – an exemplary diplomat, a champion of multilateralism and a very dear friend.
I had the privilege of working with Secretary Albright over many years, both in and out of government. And in every one of our encounters, I was always struck by the sharpness of her insights – and her equally sharp wit – and touched by her warmth, grace, and humanity.
She was a distinguished scholar of international relations – but both her scholarship and statecraft were informed by lived experience.
Twice forced to flee her native Prague as a child, she arrived in the United States as a refugee and rose to become one of the most influential foreign policy leaders of her generation.
The story of her life is the story of the turmoil of 20th century Europe, the terror of totalitarianism, and the horror of war.
But her story is also a powerful example of the invaluable contributions of refugees to countries that welcome them.
Her tremendous skills as a diplomat derived in no small measure from her extraordinary personal history, her fluency in many languages, and familiarity with different cultures.
And I think it is also why she felt so at home in our United Nations.
Although, when she first arrived here as US Ambassador, she was the only woman in the entire Security Council; or as she described it: 14 suits and a skirt.
An enduring part of her rich legacy will surely be the many ways in which she was a trailblazer for women.
At the UN, she led the American delegation to the landmark Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.
And long after she left public service, she continued to work tirelessly to promote gender equality, mentoring and inspiring an entire generation of women leaders.
In a speech exactly 25 years ago, Madeleine Albright outlined a stark choice:
“We will either be known as the world-class ditherers; who stood by while the seeds of renewed global conflict were sown; or as the generation that took strong measures to forge alliances, deter aggression and keep the peace.”
That warning has an eerie resonance in today’s world.
At a time when we are facing the most combustible geopolitical landscape in decades…
the highest number of violent conflicts since World War II…
unprecedented levels of hunger, poverty, and humanitarian emergencies…
and the very foundations and norms of international law are put into question.
At such a time and in such a world, Madeleine Albright – with her dogged determination, tenacious resolve, and abiding conviction in the power of multilateral diplomacy – is a reference and guiding light.
May her memory be a blessing and may her example be an inspiration for all of us.