I have taken to writing these end-of-year obituaries of famous people who had a personal effect on me in my professional career. Last year, there were several – it was a pretty bad year all around. This year of 2022 was less traumatic – although I did learn about a few less-than-famous ones who did have quite an influence on me – a couple of law professors that were instrumental in my belated study of the law, for example. And at least one close friend who remained loyal through thick and thin. Culturally speaking, too, there were many sad losses, mostly in the entertainment and news industries but also sports. And, of course, it has been a horrible year as far as the renegade Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is concerned. But I will stick to my routine here of only reflecting on famous people who actually died in 2022 and with whom I had professional interactions. There are only two that I would mention this year – Madeleine Albright and Orrin Hatch.
First, Madeleine. It is strange that I never did interact with her one-on-one, and yet she did play a number of significant roles – most strikingly for me in the 1990s but once again in 2016. She did have a rather parallel career in Democratic politics – working in the White House when I was White House Fellow under President Carter in 1979-80 and both of us supporting Michael Dukakis for President in 1988. When she was appointed US Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton in 1993, I was lobbying for a position as Deputy Director-General of the International Labor Organization.
My friend Vernon Jordan (who passed away in 2021 and was included in my Obituaries for that year) was instrumental in getting the White House to clear my ILO appointment. This had to be cleared by the State Department but not necessarily by the US Ambassador in New York. In fact, in those days, I was most closely coordinating with another US Ambassador, Dan Spiegel, in Geneva. Anyway, I did get the appointment and did coordinate our ILO activities in both Washington, DC and New York. The most alarming issue from the ILO point of view was a Republican-controlled Senate that included the likes of Senator Jesse Helms and his foreign policy adviser John Bolton (who himself became the US ambassador to the UN under the second Bush). They wanted to pull the US out of the ILO, but that is quite another story. Fortunately, the State Department was able to avoid the Helms “advice” on this matter.
The other significant point about Madeleine’s ambassadorship at the UN is that she helped bring about the rejection of Boutros-Boutros Galli as Secretary-General for a second term and the election of Kofi Annan in his place. I was a great fan of Kofi Annan and had numerous occasions to work with him on ILO-related concerns at the UN. I would often pass these concerns through the US Mission in New York, but by then Madeleine was Secretary of State and I was dealing with quite a different person as the US Ambassador on Social and Economic Affairs, another dear friend from those days. But clearly, as Secretary of State, she was instrumental in convincing President Clinton to support the new ILO convention on child labor and to be the keynote speaker at the annual ILO Conference in 1998.
Ambassador Albright was also an ardent advocate of women’s rights, as was I, of course. She was instrumental in arranging for Hilary Clinton to go with her to the Beijing 1994 Gender Conference – which I would have attended myself, but for the anti-gender atmosphere at the ILO and the resistance of the Director-General Michel Hansenne. Not only was this fellow unattuned to the notion that he could have sent TWO strong women, one from a developing country and one from a developed country, to the Beijing Conference (he only sent the other one), but he was also so resistant to the ILO doing anything about child labor that he rebuffed Carol Bellamy, then the head of UNICEF, when she tried to persuade him to work with UNICEF on an annual report on child labor. Ah well, I did learn that the ILO has its own limitations, based on the union movement in general having been mostly among men working in industrial sectors and on the fact that children don’t join unions! But again, I deviate. Madeleine Albright did play a pivotal role with Hilary Clinton at the 1994 Beijing Conference, and she was the Secretary of State when the US ratified this new child labor convention.
One final observation about Madeleine Albright is that she was a key figure in Hilary Clinton’s campaigns for president – both in 2008 and then in 2016. I was an Obama supporter from the beginning in 2008 (along with my son, while my husband and daughter supported Hilary then). But in 2016, my whole family was behind Hilary. I myself went to a major Dems Abroad event in Geneva during the primaries. We had electronic hook-ups to Madeleine for Hilary and to Bernie Sanders himself, and we interviewed them both. Madeleine had already been embarrassed by her remark that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Oops. But she handled herself well on the issues and gave a good case for choosing Hilary.
Unfortunately, the same Dems Abroad group reviewed the two interviews and did an informal vote – evenly split between Hilary and Bernie. This in itself was a warning sign, reinforced by the fact that all the Hilary supporters were “old” and all the Bernie supporters were “young”. What’s more the Bernie supporters were dedicated to the cause and admired Bernie’s spirt, while the Hilary supporters admitted that she was only “the best alternative”. We were, to be sure, all deeply shocked when Trump won in November of that year, but it was clear even then that neither Hilary nor her supporter Madeleine were appealing to a broadening electorate.
Nonetheless, my personal thanks to Madeleine Albright for all that she did as a trailblazer for women – more so, perhaps, than even someone like Barbara Walter, who also passed away in 2022. Both were truly bold and inspirational, and I was there to participate in their boldness and benefit from their inspiration.
Orrin Hatch is quite another character entirely. He was not exactly someone who gave me inspiration, but I did rather like him in spite of himself. He had a long career in the US Senate and might even have become a Supreme Court Justice. Over his long career, he was mostly very partisan from the right, but I did have numerous encounters with him over the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that made it possible for the legislation to move forward. I believe he was the ranking Republican or at least in a senior position on the two Senate committees that dealt with civil rights legislation (Judiciary and Health, Education & Labor). He knew that the Business Roundtable had initiated a dialogue (that I was managing) with the major civil rights and gender NGOs to search for common ground on updating the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Numerous Supreme Court decisions had muddied the legislative intent, and this new legislation was oriented to fixing these problems as well as expanding the law on damages.
Our group met with him several times to convince him that a compromise was in the interests of the business community. He listened to our arguments, always with a grin on his face. I’ll never forget the time he addressed me directly and said, “It’s OK for you at AT&T to push for these changes because you are already complying with what’s being proposed. But what about the little guy with less than 15 employees who doesn’t have a legal department to protect him?” We, of course, responded by saying that any employer should be complying with basic civil rights already and would be protected as long as they were in compliance.
The Business Roundtable eventually pulled out of the negotiations under pressure from President Bush (the older one), but the compromise that we had worked out did get taken up by a network of Democratic and Republican staffers working together, including from Senator Hatch’s office, to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Senator Hatch, it should be noted, was instrumental in a bipartisan a way to help enact the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. So there were some positive memories of his time in the Senate, and I also note that the memorial service for him last year did feature warm remarks about his camaraderie from both Republicans and Democrats.
Beyond these two, I do have to observe that other globally significant political figures passed away in 2022 – as reminders of a past that is no longer as revered as it once was – Mikhail Gorbachev, Jiang Zemin, Queen Elizabeth, the former Pope – Benedict? I even wrote a lament about queens and movie stars as I watched the funeral procession in London. And I guess I’ll watch the funeral ceremony of the ex-Pope in Rome, too. But they were all distant figures in my life.