Remembering the Honorable Madeleine Albright

Statement of Director Dino Korca on the Passing of Secretary Madeleine Albright

Throughout her extraordinary life, Secretary Madeleine Albright lifted up humanity. To many, Secretary Albright was known as the first woman Secretary of State, advocate, professor, or mentor, but to the people of Kosova, Madeleine’s very name was synonymous with hope.

“History is watching us”, she told a meeting of European ministers in London who were hesitating to act on Kosova. “In this very room our predecessors delayed as Bosnia burned, and history will not be kind to us if we do the same.” And indeed, as President Joe Biden said in a tribute: “Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history.”

“Kosova’s children have much to show the world about courage and determination in the face of persecution and in the aftermath of tragedy “, she told the cheering crowd during her first visit to Kosova in late November of 1999, accompanying President Bill Clinton. “You have a lesson for us about determination in the way you have struggled to maintain the language, the culture, and the homes that have been yours for centuries”. Madeleine truly was a force for grace and freedom.

Whenever asked what was her proudest moment as Secretary of State, she always said: helping the people of Kosova. “When I go back to Kosova now,” she said recently, “there is a whole generation of little girls whose first name is Madeleine, and they are all so grateful, and that’s what I am proudest of.”

As a young girl, having arrived in the U.S. as a refugee, she never forgot the generosity of America. And like so many before her, she was proudly American. This is one of my favorite stories. When we first moved to England during the war, Madeleine remembered, my father used to say this: the British were very nice, they said we are so sorry your country has been taken over by a dictator, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you, and when are you going home. When we came to the United States, people said we’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible system, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you, and when will you become a citizen – and that’s what makes America great and different from any other country.

It’s fitting that the last time Secretary Albright and President Bill Clinton travelled together was a trip to Kosova.

Almost three years ago, President Clinton recalled in a statement last week, we took our last trip together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kosova’s fight for independence, when a statute was dedicated to her, and a square and a street named for Madeleine in downtown Prishtina.

She had a richly deserved happy day, President Clinton remembered.

She was a trailblazer for all, she was America’s proudest representative in the world, and she was our voice when we needed most. As an Albanian child of Kosova, as a war refugee, and as a grateful American, I am eternally grateful to have had her in our corner and in our lives. We will miss her dearly.

On behalf of the Albanian Institute and our entire community, I send my sincere sympathies to her daughters and family, and all those she inspired to believe in a better world.

“Whenever I’m asked of what I’m most proud of accomplishing as Secretary of State, I say it was helping the people of Kosovo”. — Madeleine Albright