On April 5, 1937, in Harlem, New York, Colin Powell, a future public figure and steadfast leader, was born. Son of Jamaican immigrants, Luther and Maud Powell, Colin was raised in the South Bronx, learning from a young age to always do his best and that kindness works.
Thus, by the time this young man was 18, he knew that it was his life’s purpose to serve his country.
“I felt somewhat distinctive wearing a uniform. I hadn’t been distinctive in much else,” Powell said.
After attending the City College of New York, where he participated in ROTC, Powell was promoted to the highly esteemed, Cadet Colonel position.
Once graduating in 1958, Colin followed his innate urge to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he served in combat for the extent of two tours in South Vietnam amongst the age of the flower power.
However, after 35 years of defending the home of the brave, Powell decided to end his military career in 1993, with the rank of a four-star general and was granted the prestigious accolades of the Bronze Star and Two Purple Hearts awards.
Powell’s heart of gold continued further when he initiated the U.S. Humanitarian intervention in Somalia, just days before the catastrophic Battle of Mogadishu. His courageous and decisive efforts during the war earned him the Congressional Gold Medal in March of 1991 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom shortly after.
To say that this trailblazer shattered barriers in his lifetime is an understatement. In Powell’s decorated career he was named the First Black National Security Adviser under the Reagan Administration in 1987 and the First Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the George H.W. Bush Administration in 1989.
Winning the hearts of American people, while remaining nonpartisan, was a feat that Powell held true to the end.
When many probed this political force to be reckoned with to run as the First Black President of the United States of America following his successful U.S. led coalition during the Gulf War in the 1990s, his answer was definitive and simple.
“Such a life requires a calling that I do not yet hear, and for me to pretend otherwise would not be honest to myself, it would not be honest to the American people,” Colin said.
As an Adviser of National Security and Diplomacy to presidents of both parties including Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the outpour of love could be felt by all when news broke of his untimely passing.
Former President Bill Clinton’s heart ached for the passing of someone who he called a friend.
“His deep compassion for every one of the thousands of men and women under his command will always be remembered,” Clinton said.
Additionally, President Joe Biden had nothing but good things to say about Mr. Powell in a recent statement.
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people,” Biden said.
However, Powell’s own heart bled while he lived as he was responsible for the international support for the War on Terror in the wake of September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
It is no secret that Colin’s biggest regret was his U.N. Iraq speech, addressing the invasion of U.S. troops in Iraq on the basis of incorrect intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Powell goes as far as to declare it a “blot” on his record.
“I am mostly made at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me. One of my rules is, when you’ve made a mistake or something has gone wrong, you study it, you learn from it, you internalize it, you ask yourself what you should have done differently, and then you roll the error up and you throw it over your shoulder because life goes on and you’ve got to go on,” Powell said.
Nonetheless, Powell was also a family man as much as he was a soldier and a prominent leader in Washington who never ceases to count his blessings.
“I’m a child of immigrants. My parents came here from the island of Jamaica in 1920 and 1924. They came here in banana boats — not well-educated people. They came here not just because they needed economic opportunity — they had to leave the country they loved, Jamaica — but they came here also to become citizens of the United States of America,” Powell said.
On October 18, 2021, Colin Powell died of COVID-19 complications at the age of 84, while battling blood cancer multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s disease.
Colin is survived by his loving wife, Alma Powell, who knew Colin as a devoted husband.
Fortunately, in 2012, Powell published his #1 National Bestseller, “It Worked for Me” where he discusses his 13 rules, life and leadership.
“Everyone has life lessons and stories. These are mine. All I can say is that they worked for me.”