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Douglas Brinkley on Madeleine Albright, a “Hammer of Democracy”

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An appreciation from historian Douglas Brinkley:


There was something indomitable about Madeleine Albright, who died this past week at age 84.

History will remember her as the first woman to serve as America’s Secretary of State, while the fashionistas will forever swoon over her brooches. Flowers or balloons meant she was optimistic; turtles or crabs signified exasperation.


From 2009: Madeleine Albright’s pins

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During the 1990s and beyond, Albright was our star-spangled Hammer of Democracy, a Theodore Roosevelt big-power realist, with an Eleanor Roosevelt-infused human rights disposition.

Vladimir Putin considered her a pro-democracy zealot, while Saddam Hussein labeled her an “unparalleled serpent.” But to this child of Czechoslovakian refugees who fled from Nazi invaders and Communist strongmen, these criticisms were boasting rights.

When Bill Clinton was reelected president in 1996, there was a hunt to find a new secretary of state. Virtually all of Clinton’s advisors wanted Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia to get the nod.

But Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton favored Albright. It proved to be an inspired choice.

As a mother of three children, she refused to tolerate Saddam Hussein’s ethnic cleansing of Kurdish villages and Slobodan Milošević’s genocide in Bosnia.  

As we watch the Ukrainian war unfold, let’s keep Madame Secretary in our minds and hearts. For Albright’s motto is the one that President Zelensky is now nobly defending: “Never take democracy for granted.”

     
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Story produced by Robert Marston and Ed Forgotson. Editor: Remington Korper. 



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