Apr 27, 2022

Albright was the ‘voice of America at its best,’ former President Clinton says in eulogy 4/27/22 Transcript

Albright was the ‘voice of America at its best,’ former President Clinton says in eulogy 4/27/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsBill ClintonAlbright was the ‘voice of America at its best,’ former President Clinton says in eulogy 4/27/22 Transcript

Albright was the ‘voice of America at its best,’ former President Clinton says in eulogy 4/27/22. Read the transcript here.


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Bill Clinton: (00:02)
Anne, Alice, Katie. To all the spouses, the grandchildren, Sister Cathy and Brother John, thank you for giving Hillary and me the chance to say a few words.

Bill Clinton: (00:25)
Mr. President, President and Mrs. Obama, Vice President Gore, all the members of Congress and the diplomatic core and cabinets past and present, and especially to all of you Who had the distinct honor, and I hope the joy, of working with Madeleine Albright.

Bill Clinton: (00:56)
Our last conversation was two weeks before she passed away. And we always spent the first few minutes telling stories that we swore were true and joking with each other. And then I said, “Tell me how you’re feeling.” She said, “Look, I got a little problem here, but I’ve got a perfectly good doctor. I’m doing exactly what he tells me to do. So, I’m getting good care and whatever happens will be the best outcome I can get. Let’s don’t waste any time on that. The only thing that really matters is what kind of world we’re going to leave to our grandchildren.” I will never forget that conversation as long as I live. It was so perfectly Madeleine.

Bill Clinton: (01:48)
Yeah, I’d like to live to be 90, 95, 100, but the thing that really matters is what’s going to happen to our grandchildren’s generation. Are we going to lose our freedom? Are we going to lose our democracy? Have we decided after all that all it matters are our differences in this fleeting life instead of what we have in common? And so, Madeleine made a decision that with her last breath, she would go out with her boots on. In this case, supporting President Biden and all of America’s efforts to help Ukraine.

Bill Clinton: (02:38)
What kind of world are we going to leave to our grandchildren? That question’s up in the air, but cause of Madeleine Albright. I was honored to be part of her life for more than 30 years. I was thrilled that when Chelsea got to meet her and what an influence she had on Chelsea and lots of other young women. I was amazed with the friendship she formed with Hillary and grateful for that.

Bill Clinton: (03:17)
But I met her a long time ago. She was working in the Dukakis campaign, and I’m a graduate of Georgetown where she taught so I knew her by reputation and I knew she’d been voted the best teacher by the students twice. But when I finally met her, I realized that she was even better than advertised. She was smart, tough minded, talented. She had a great sense of humor, and a clear grasp of the post-Cold War world we were moving into.

Bill Clinton: (03:59)
So when I was elected, I asked Madeleine to manage the transition for the National Security Council, which wound up filled with incredibly gifted, balanced people and we had more problems than we could say grace over and we needed every one of them. And as I watched her more, I decided to ask her be the ambassador to the United Nations. Because her life story was about to become the story of the last part of the 20th century and much of the world, and because she could be the voice of America at its best.

Bill Clinton: (04:44)
And after four years in which she continued to defy expectations and sometimes raise eyebrows… Now, I have to say this. She would never forgive me if I didn’t mention this at her funeral. When the Cubans shot down the Brothers to the Rescue planes, in violation of international Law, they had a conversation which Madeleine got a copy of on their radios between the planes about how they had shown their cojones by shooting down a totally defenseless couple of planes that were dropping pro-democracy leaflets in Cuba. And parenthetically then almost certainly outside Cuban airspace when they were shot down, but it was illegal to do it in an airplane.

Bill Clinton: (05:49)
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. Some people said, “It’s so undiplomatic, it’s unladylike in South American,” it’s all this, it’s all that. And I called her and I said, “I’m just jealous. It’s the best line delivered by anybody in this administration since I’ve been here, and keep on going, and it was great.”

Bill Clinton: (06:31)
We spent a happy day together two years ago in Kosovo 20 years after the conflict there. Freed them of a genuine threat of genocide. We walked hand in hand through Pristina on a sunny, sunny June day. Down the street, there were about quarter of a million people. There it’s a lot of people in a small country like that. And we came to the subject of our stroll, which was a beautiful bust of Madeleine in a shrub surrounded, tall, stand. That was their tribute to her for being there for them.

Bill Clinton: (07:33)
We see that legacy honored; all the things she did with Kosovo, with Bosnia. We see it in so many ways. Today, we have the president, the prime minister, and the former president of Kosovo here. We have the foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It took until the slaughter of Srebrenica, but finally we got enough people together to do what’s now being done in a different way to try to save Ukraine.

Bill Clinton: (08:18)
From the day she entered the UN till the day she left, she tried to stick up for people who were left out and left behind. And in spite of all of its imperfections, and we all know them, I’m very grateful that the peace is held in Bosnia for now more than 26 years. We see her legacy honored here by the presence of the vice president of Columbia, where Madeleine believed being a good neighbor was dealing with a country that was the oldest democracy in South America, where a third of the land was then under control of the Narco traffickers with Plan Columbia.

Bill Clinton: (09:09)
Just few years later, the 50th anniversary of the Inter-American Development Bank was held in Medellín, formerly the drug capital of the world. She believed in that. She believed in the integrity of all the former republics of the Soviet Union, and I believe the president of Georgia is here today and I’m very grateful for that.

Bill Clinton: (09:39)
I’m grateful that she was an aggressive voice supporting Vice President Gore when we were trying to sound the alarm on climate change. We didn’t always win, in case you didn’t notice. For example, when Al flew the Japan to get the Kyoto Accord, the first ever international agreement on climate change, the Senate voted against it 98 to nothing before he got off the airplane home. But Madeleine thought it was the right thing to do, and she kept banging the drone, and I think time has proved her out.

Bill Clinton: (10:26)
The secretary of state’s job, as I came to learn firsthand, is a traveling job. I was fortunate to travel many miles with her. When I first heard that she’d passed away, the very first thing I did, I was home in New York, was to go into the kitchen and look at these two beautiful paintings from Haiti that Madeleine gave Hillary and me because she knew how much we cared about what happened there.

Bill Clinton: (11:02)
There’re just so many things that I remember. I remember that in addition to Columbia, she was always interested in Argentina, not only because they were a very strong ally of the United States, but because when I went on a state visit there and she went with me, I went into, with Hillary, we went into a dance hall in downtown Buenos Aires, and there was Madeleine dancing a mean tango. Rest of us were looking for lessons. She was looking for the dance floor.She was always about a half a step ahead on a lot of these things things that matter a lot.

Bill Clinton: (11:50)
I’m saying this all because she was a really fully developed woman. I mean, her life was a microcosm of the late 20th century in Europe and the United States. Her family was run out of their home, first by Hitler and then by Stalin. She came to America still not knowing the true story of her family and what they had done to survive. After she was secretary of state, she finally learned that she was actually raised Jewish and had three of her four grandparents die in the Holocaust.

Bill Clinton: (12:36)
But somehow in the middle of all that, we gave a distinguished Czech diplomat and his family a chance to come to America as refugees, and their daughter wound up becoming ambassador to the UN and secretary of state and doing lots of other good things. She made us laugh, she made us cry. Some of us she made mad. But she had a full, hopeful life because she knew what she believed in, she knew what she was for, she knew what she was against, and she wanted other people to feel the same way and then to talk about it instead of kill each other over it. That’s the basically her simple political philosophy.

Bill Clinton: (13:44)
Today, we see in Ukraine all too tragically what Madeleine always knew; that the advance of freedom is neither inevitable or permanent, and that in politics, where the lure of power is strong and the temptation to abuse it is often irresistible, there are no permanent victories or defeats.

Bill Clinton: (14:12)
Her book on fascism was one of many she wrote. I personally love the one she wrote comparing the relationship of religion and politics in different countries. She just was curious. I want you to remember that. She was a great secretary of state. She did 20 other things I could mention, but the most important thing is God gave her a fine mind, a wealth of experience for anybody who was willing to pay attention to it, and she made the most of it, not just for herself, but for other people. She loved this country more than you will ever know. And one of my proudest sad moments was when we went together to Václav Havel’s funeral, and I believe that his wife Dagmar and high officials of the Czech government are here today too.

Bill Clinton: (15:15)
Madeleine spoke for the United States, and we were in the national cathedral. It was freezing cold, and Madeleine got up and started mourning and paying tribute to her friend in their native tongue. The impact on the audience was electric. She spoke about five languages, I think. Four more than I do anyway. Some would say five, but anyway. The impact was electric. And I kept thinking, “This is what America is about; that a hardworking immigrant family could come here and it could come to this.”

Bill Clinton: (16:11)
So, I ask you. Madeleine said once that, “We can’t just be actors, we have to be authors of our own history.” She was a great author, but will people read, remember, follow? This is what she would want me to say today. “I had a good life. I was so blessed in my family and my work and friends. But freedom and democracy and the rule of law are not permanently enshrined just because we’ve survived 200 plus years. Now, think about the world you want for your grandchildren, and work for it.”

Bill Clinton: (17:27)
We love you, Madeleine. We miss you. But I pray to God, we never stop hearing you. Just sit on our shoulder and nag us to death til we do the right thing. God bless you. Thank you.

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