Conservatives and liberals alike, have great, and not-so great, things to say about this man. In this day of analyzing and judging one’s race, background, culture, personality, sexual orientation, and virtually everything else about a person, Colin Powell was a man who simply tried to do his job, the best he could. His love of country, and of others, were his only priorities. While it can be debated whether or not he swayed with the political winds of Washington far too often, he served our country, our people, the world, and God, in a manner that was both dignified, successful, and admirable.
Colin Powell, in full Colin Luther Powell, was born April 5, 1937, in New York city. He left us to be with God, and all those who went before him, just 7 weeks ago, on October 18, 2021, in Bethesda, Maryland. A true statesman and a General in the US Army, he served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993 and as secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to hold either position.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell grew up in the Harlem and South Bronx sections of New York City. He attended the City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958, while serving in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). He entered the army upon graduation, served in Vietnam in 1962–63 and 1968–69, and then studied at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In 1972 he took his first political position, as a White House fellow, and soon became an assistant to Frank Carlucci, then deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He held various posts over the next few years, in the Pentagon and elsewhere, and in 1983 became senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. In 1987 he joined the staff of the National Security Council as deputy to Carlucci, then assistant to the president for national security affairs. Late in 1987 Pres. Ronald Reagan appointed Powell to succeed Carlucci. Early in 1989 Powell took over the Army Forces Command.
In April 1989 Powell became a four-star general, and in August, of that year, Pres. George Bush nominated him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As chairman, he played a leading role in planning the invasion of Panama (1989) and the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations of the Persian Gulf crisis and war, from August 1990 to March 1991. He retired from the military in 1993, sparking speculation that he would enter politics. Although he decided not to run for president in 1996, he joined the Republican Party and spoke out on national issues.
In 2001 he was appointed secretary of state by Pres. George W. Bush. Powell unsuccessfully sought broader international support for the Iraq War. His controversial speech before the United Nations, in February 2003, was later “deemed by the press” to be based on faulty intelligence. The supposed faulty intelligence said that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction which the press jumped all over when no nuclear weapons were found in Iraq. But most people understood, just a few years after Saddam had murdered over 250,000 people by gassing them to death, that there were many other weapons of mass instruction, than nukes, that Saddam clearly possessed. The press vilified Powell – the American people did not!
As the Bush administration evolved, Powell was considered a political moderate in an administration dominated by hard-liners. Powell saw his influence in the White House wane, and he announced his resignation in 2004, shortly after Bush’s reelection. He was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice in 2005.
Powell spent much of his life inspiring many with his leadership skills and life experiences. Along with his wife Alma, he began America's Promise Alliance, as part of their dedication to the wellbeing of children and youth of all socioeconomic levels and their commitment to seeing that young people receive the resources necessary to succeed.
Powell began his American journey from ordinary circumstances. His close-knit family provided support and a caring environment during his childhood. He found his calling in the military, and his entire adult life has been in the service of his country. As a soldier, he was committed to protecting the nation and advancing democratic values. While he gravitated toward support roles early in his career, his organizational talent and pragmatic outlook were recognized by those who placed him in key government advisory roles.
He died of complications from COVID-19 on October 18, 2021. He was fully vaccinated and had been treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He was 84 years old.
There are many great men and women, who have had hugely successful careers and been strongly sought after to go into politics. Most have refused the invitation because they knew the sacrifices and compromises that would have to be made to have a meaningful and long-term political career. Colin Powel was one of those people, for many years, refusing politics to serve his country in a more admirable way as a soldier in the US Army. To support his country and help his leaders, he eventually acquiesced and stepped into politics only to realize it was a no-win career for a true soldier. Like many before him, who made similar moves from the military to the political circus, his results were quite mixed and he drew significant criticism. Ulysses S Grant and Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower are two names that come to mind, who had great military careers only to struggle in politics. But one cannot discount his hugely meaningful and sacrificial military service, and how his dedication and tireless work ethic, helped lead the US to the most successful military campaign ever, while achieving virtually no serious injuries or casualties to his troops.
As many in our country want to tear down and ridicule so many, and want to stress how so many are disadvantaged and put down by our culture of wealth, Colin Powell stood tall as a self-made man. An African American, raised in poverty, would simply work hard, be committed to his family and his career, and simply be his best. He treated everyone equally and he never allowed the prevalent judgement culture, so exacerbated in today’s world, to impact him or affect his treatment of others. He commented on what it took to succeed, when he said: “I was born in Harlem, raised in the South Bronx, went to public school, got out of public college, went into the Army, and then I just stuck with it.” He would then add the key to his success and what should be a key motto for everyone: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” He would add: “A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
He became successful and respected, not because he was a man, nor was he wealthy, nor was it because of the color of his skin. He became a well respected and trusted leader because he worked hard, treated everyone with respect, and worked hard. Skin color, education, wealth, sexual orientation, political viewpoints, were areas he never focused on nor saw through his eyes. He only saw people who needed love, trust, respect, and a friend.
Thank you so very much General Powell, for your service. You served, led, and devoutly supported your troops from the day you enlisted until your retirement. We owe you a great deal of gratitude, as just being the simple, dignified, and dedicated soldier, you were. Rest in Peace and go with God Colin Powell!!!