October 19, 2021

Colin Powell

Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, a top military officer and a national security adviser, died on Monday at age 84… Powell served three Republican presidents in senior posts and ascended to leadership of the U.S. military as it was regaining its vigor after the trauma of the war in Vietnam, where he served two tours as an Army officer.” Reuters

Many on both sides applaud Powell’s lifetime of service:

To survey the triumphs and disappointments of post-World War II American history is to marvel at their entwinement with the biography of Colin Luther Powell, who died Monday at 84. The career of this remarkable soldier-statesman… would have been unimaginable but for the greatest triumph of his era, the civil rights revolution. Yet Mr. Powell began his rise in a nearly all-White Army officer corps by serving in the disaster known as the Vietnam War…

“His personal and professional outlook shaped in that crucible, Mr. Powell, as an increasingly influential adviser to Republican Cabinet officers and presidents, went on to help shape history himself: the United States’ triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War; the American victory in the 1991 Gulf War; the U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan…

“This necessarily partial list barely does justice to Mr. Powell’s full impact on the country, which reached a kind of peak with the Powell-for-president boom in the mid-1990s. He demurred, but not before the phenomenon inspired many Americans, of all races, to take more seriously the possibility that Americans would elect a president of color.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Way back in 1995, I stood in a long line to get a copy of Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey, autographed… At that point, the only thing most Americans knew about Powell is what they had seen of him in the television briefings during the Persian Gulf War – professional, direct, the occasional dramatic flare from the simplicity of his statements, cutting through the usual Washington jargon: ‘Our strategy to go after this army is very, very simple. First we’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.’…

“For a potential presidential candidate, it is near ideal to be associated with traits like directness, clarity, the sense of being a classic American success story and a key architect of a resounding U.S. military victory. It’s hard to overstate how much people in the early 1990s just expected Powell to be the first African American president someday

“But by 1995, Powell had decided not to run for president – Bill Clinton was allegedly terrified of running against him. Powell told the public he lacked the passion and commitment for political life; his wife, Alma, reportedly threatened to leave him if he ran for president, fearing Powell would be targeted for assassination by a racist. We’re left to wonder how recent American history might have turned out differently if Alma Powell had less fear of her husband being assassinated.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

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