WASHINGTON — Madeleine Albright, the female U.S. secretary of state, has died at 84 years old.
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.
At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. government. She remained outspoken in politics after the Clinton administration and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former president Barack Obama in 2012.
Albright's family said she died of cancer and was surrounded by family and friends.
Soon after the family's announcement, condolences began to roll in. President Joe Biden ordered flags at the White House and other federal buildings and grounds to be flown at half-staff until March 27.
Former presidents and other officials
In a statement shared by Clinton on Twitter, he called her “one of the finest Secretaries of State, an outstanding U.N. Ambassador, a brilliant professor, and an extraordinary human being.”
"Because she knew firsthand that America’s policy decisions had the power to make a difference in people’s lives around the world, she saw her jobs as both an obligation and an opportunity,” Clinton wrote. “And through it all, even until our last conversation just two weeks ago, she never lost her great sense of humor or her determination to go out with her boots on, supporting Ukraine in its fight to preserve freedom and democracy.”
George W. Bush:
"Laura and I are heartbroken by the news of Madeleine Albright’s death," Bush said in a statement. "She lived out the American dream and helped others realize it. As a young girl in Czechoslovakia, she fled the Nazis, and years later, she fled Communism. When she arrived in the United States as a young girl aboard the SS America in 1948, she never dreamt that she would become our nation’s first female Secretary of State. She served with distinction as a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies for peace in our world. I respect her love of country and public service, and Laura and I are grateful to have called Madeline Albright our friend. We send our sincere sympathies to her daughters."
Obama called Albright "truly remarkable" in a statement he shared on Twitter.
"As the first woman to serve as America's top diplomat, Madeleine Albright helped bring peace to the Balkans, paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world, and was a champion for democratic values. And as an immigrant herself, she brought a unique and important perspective to her trailblazing career."
The Carter Center released this statement from former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
"Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Madeline Albright. I am grateful to Madeline for her great work during my presidency on my National Security Council staff and afterward for her support of The Carter Center through the years. She has been a highly effective and accomplished diplomat and a trailblazer as the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. Secretary Albright's service to our country and world will inspire generations to come, and we extend our condolences to her family and to the many whose lives have been touched by this remarkable peacemaker."
Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he was "grieved" to hear of Albright's death.
“You didn’t have to share every one of Secretary Albright’s policy views to appreciate her dedicated leadership on behalf of our nation," he said in a statement. "I genuinely enjoyed the times we got to work together on shared interests including the ongoing project of helping secure a democratic future for the people of Burma. Secretary Albright understood keenly that the United States of America is a global power with global interests and global responsibilities and must act accordingly."
Other public figures
The iconic singer said Albright "was a good friend of mine for the last 28 years."
"I am so sad about losing a good friend and a great woman in this fragile world of ours," Streisand said on Twitter. "May you rest in peace dear one…"
Billie Jean King:
King, a former world #1 tennis player, said she'd spent time with Albright over the years.
"She possessed a brilliant mind & a trailblazing spirit," King said on Twitter. "My deepest sympathies go out to her loved ones."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.