Biden to address major Washington funeral for Madeleine Albright

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President Joe Biden will address the funeral of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright on Wednesday at a cathedral service featuring hundreds from the Washington political and diplomatic elite.

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Albright, the first woman to head the State Department, and one of the major figures of late 20th century US diplomacy, died last month, aged 84.

Reflecting her status on the world stage, her funeral in Washington’s National Cathedral will be packed with more than 1,400 people and carried live on television.

Tributes will be delivered by Biden and by former president Bill Clinton, who appointed Albright to secretary of state.

Former senator Hillary Clinton, who also headed the State Department and unsuccessfully ran for president, will also speak.

Guests will include “current and former US government officials, US presidents, secretaries of state, foreign ministers, ambassadors and State Department colleagues at all levels of the government,” Albright’s office said.

“A large bipartisan Congressional delegation” will also attend.

At the time of her death, Biden hailed Albright as someone who “turned the tide of history” and “defied convention and broke barriers again and again.”

Albright took the helm of the State Department in 1997, dealing with a post-Cold War world in which the United States had emerged as the sole superpower.

As top diplomat, she led crucial discussions with world leaders on arms control, trade, terrorism and the future of NATO.

Not since Margaret Thatcher governed Britain had a woman wielded such a position of global influence.

Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and fled the approaching Nazis with her family to London. She then entered the United States as a child refugee in 1948, as Soviet communism spread across post-World War II Eastern Europe.

She said that only later she learned of her family’s Jewish roots and that three of her grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps.

Reflecting on her rise to secretary of state, which came after decades of building influence in Democratic party circles, she quipped that previously “the only way a woman could truly make her foreign policy views felt was by marrying a diplomat and then pouring tea on an offending ambassador’s lap.”

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