The death this past week of General Colin Powell at the age of 84 removes from our country one of the most outstanding persons ever to serve the United States.
Colin Powell was both a soldier and a statesman. What Dwight Eisenhower was to America in the middle of the 20th century, Colin Powell was to our country in the latter part of the century.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was a decorated war hero through two tours of duty in Vietnam and became a trusted advisor to three American presidents in various capacities while serving on the National Security Council, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State.
General Powell was a trailblazer, becoming the first Black person to serve our country in those capacities.
His straightforwardness and honesty set him apart from his peers. Powell had no agenda, other than doing what he thought was best for the country and the world.
Whenever General Powell appeared as a guest on a TV news show, it was must-see TV, because unlike politicians and others, he always could be counted upon to tell the truth.
There was one glaring exception of course, and that was his support for the War in Iraq, which rates among the most disastrous, and certainly the most consequential, military endeavor in our nation’s history.
Powell later conceded that his support for that war was a “blot” on his record. But that admission to making a mistake precisely is what set him apart from his peers.
In an interview with the New York Times, General Powell was asked to describe himself. Here is what he said:
“Powell is a problem-solver. He was taught as a soldier to solve problems. So he has views, but he’s not an ideologue. He has passion, but he’s not a fanatic. He’s first and foremost a problem-solver.”
Our nation and the world are the poorer for the loss of Colin Powell.
May he rest in peace.