“With her humanity and intellect, she has turned the tide of history,” Biden said during a funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington.
“She has always been talented in explaining to the American people why it matters to them that people everywhere in the world are struggling to breathe freely,” the president said.
The president said he learned of Albright’s death while traveling to Europe for an emergency meeting with NATO allies to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I didn’t understand that Madeleine was such a big part of the reason why NATO is still so strong and motivated, as it is today,” Biden said.
The president said Albright had remained “the liaison in the foreign policy community” in the decades after leaving office.
Biden said Albright was “always, and I mean always, on top of the latest developments. She always talks about democracy, and she’s always the first to sound the alarm about fascism.”
“Presidents and leaders around the world have continued to seek her advice, including myself,” Biden said.
The president praised Albright’s diplomatic skills and said part of the reason he thought they were so effective was because she “understood something I’ve always believed in: that all politics, especially international politics, is personal.”
Biden described Albright as an advocate for young women in national security, ensuring they always had a seat at the table, and a mentor to “generations of rising foreign policy experts.”
Albright’s funeral also included tributes from former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Albright’s daughters – Anne Albright, Alice Albright and Catherine Albright – will also speak. Episcopal priests ordained in service. Musicians Chris Botti and Herbie Hancock will perform a tribute.
Several current and former federal officials are included in the list of readers and mediators, including Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State; Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and former student of Albright’s father; and Susan Rice, who leads the White House’s Homeland Policy Council.
Several other Biden officials also attended, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dennis McDonough, and US climate envoy John Kerry, the former secretary of state.
Also present were former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Chuck Hagel and Bill Cohen.
Along with several honorary pallbearers, the pallbearers on Wednesday’s service will consist of Albright’s Diplomatic Security Service and protective detailing during her tenure as ambassador and as Secretary of State.
Born in Prague in 1937, Marie-Jana Korpilova, daughter of a Czechoslovak diplomat, Albright fled her homeland with her family 10 days after the Nazi invasion. Her experience growing up in communist Yugoslavia and then fleeing to the United States made her a lifelong opponent of authoritarianism and fascism.
Albright became the face of US foreign policy in the decade between the end of the Cold War and the war on terror unleashed by the September 11, 2001 attacks – an era that President George HW Bush heralded as a “New World Order”. The United States, particularly in Iraq and the Balkans, built international alliances and sometimes intervened militarily to roll back authoritarian regimes. Albright – a self-described “pragmatic idealist” who called “resolute pluralism” to describe the Clinton administration’s foreign policy – drew from her childhood experiences growing up in Yugoslavia and escaping from it to shape her worldview.
After being Secretary of State, Albright served as president of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington from 2001 until her death, and taught at Georgetown University. Albright was also a prolific author, writing seven New York Times bestsellers.
At Wednesday’s service, former teaching assistants who worked at Albright’s classes in Georgetown are expected to serve as mentors.
CNN’s Devan Cole and Carolyn Kelly contributed to this story.