Chicagoans react to death of feminist icon Madeleine Albright
CHICAGO - Having fled Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Holocaust as a child, Madeleine Albright believed true peace required military muscle to protect it, especially in the face of ethno-nationalists like Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
"It’s so sad her voice has been silenced," said Melanne Verveer, a friend and former State Department colleague of Albright.
She spoke after Albright died of cancer at the age of 84.
"If the international order is being re-ordered, Madeleine would be speaking up very strongly…her last book was a warning about fascism," she said.
The book specifically discussed the challenge posed by Putin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
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While working in President Bill Clinton’s administration, Albright aggressively pushed NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe. She insisted the US military intervene to stop ethnic warfare in the former Yugoslavia.
Before his death, the late General Colin Powell joked that Albright’s demand for military action nearly gave him an aneurysm.
Ivo daalder, former US Ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said he believed Albright would favor a vigorous response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
One of Albright’s most memorable moments came in 2016 as she campaigned for Hillary Clinton, her successor as Secretary of State. With Clinton at her side, Albright told a group of voters, "and just remember, 'there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.'"
A Chicagoan who led the United Nations World Food Program said Albright could be hard-nosed about women's rights.
Catherine Bertini, a distinguished fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said, "As women move up the ladder, it's even more important for them to be reaching down to bring other people up those rungs. And she always did that."
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Verveer, now executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, said Albright "recognized that the United States' role in advancing women's rights was in our national interest as well."
Albright was for many years a professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.
Albright's parents were Jewish. But they converted to Christianity amid the horrors of the Holocaust. They raised Albright Roman Catholic, without ever telling her of the family’s Jewish ancestry. She said she only learned of it in 1999, after her parents were dead.
Albright said, ""I got a letter from somebody that had all of the names right and the dates right and the villages right and saying my family knew your family to be a fine Jewish family."
She then explored her family’s roots in Czechoslovakia, writing about it in a book entitled "Prague Spring."
Verveer said Albright told her "the family did it to protect her, because they were all suffering with what the Nazis were doing to the Jewish people."
Albright's appointment as Secretary of State in 1997 made her the highest-ranking woman in American history, up to that time.