Former Secretary of State Madeleine’s life as a child refugee during World War II, a foreign policy expert during the Cold War and her ability to speak for America were all reasons she was chosen as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, former President Bill Clinton said April 27 during her funeral service.
“Her life story was about to become the story of the last part of the 20th century and much of the world,” Clinton said, adding: “She could be the voice of America at its best.”
Clinton recounted a well-known story in which Albright, then the UN ambassador, officially criticized Cuban fighter jets that shot down two small planes operated by a Cuban exile group, which had been dropping anti-government leaflets in the country. The pilots had said they had “shown their cojones” by shooting down the planes.
“So, Madeleine says, ‘that’s not cojones, that’s cowardice.’ And all of a sudden it was on the lips of everybody in South Florida. And she was being criticized … ‘that’s so undiplomatic,’ ‘It’s unlady like.’”
“And I called and I said, ‘I’m just jealous. It’s the best line developed, delivered by anybody in this administration since I’ve been here,’” Clinton recalled.
Albright died in March at the age of 84 after a battle with cancer. The first woman to serve as secretary of state, Albright was also a child of Czech refugees who fled from a Nazi invasion. She used her experience growing up in communist Yugoslavia and fleeing to the U.S. to inform her work on world affairs, becoming a staunch defender of democracy and human rights.