By Kevin Seraaj, Publisher, Orlando Advocate
Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, died yesterday at the age of 84. On Facebook, his family noted that “[he] passed away . . . due to complications from Covid 19.”
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family wrote.
Condolences quickly poured in as news of his death circulated.
As a Senator, President Joe Biden worked extensively with Powell.
“Over our many years working together – even in disagreement – Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect,” the President reflected.
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong.” —
Former President Jimmy Carter, the oldest living American president at 96, called Powell “[a] true patriot and public servant. [W]e were honored to work beside him to strengthen communities in the United States, help resolve conflict in Haiti, and observe elections in Jamaica. His courage and integrity will be an inspiration for generations to come.”
Powell became the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and was the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George W. Bush. He was thrust into the global spotlight after leading the United States to victory during the Gulf War, and was pressed by many to declare himself a candidate for the presidency.
“Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,” said Bush. “He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”
It was hard not to see Powell’s commitment to personal excellence. Former President Bill Clinton and former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted
“The son of immigrants, he rose to the top levels of military, civilian, and non-governmental service through intelligence, character, and the ability to see the big picture and attend to the smallest details. He lived the promise of America, and spent a lifetime working to help our country, especially our young people, live up to its own ideals and noblest aspirations at home and around the world.”
Powell was a true patriot– unlike those who claim to be patriots while denying to other citizens the very rights the nation’s constitutional framework demands.
Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, who was endorsed by Powell, a Republican, in 2008 and 2012, and who himself shared the distinction of being a “first African American,” saw a man who held tight to the promises of America and refused to be denied them:
“General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher. He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow.” .
Powell believed in the promise of America because he lived it, said President Biden, noting that the general devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., said the Black Press of America will fondly remember General Powell’s contributions.
“We will remember General Powell’s commitment to public service and Black communities. General Powell was a friend of the Joint Center and participated in various events. . . . He always remembered where he came from and tried to ensure that opportunities would remain open to others – as evidenced by his support of affirmative action and other programs designed to facilitate economic mobility and the full participation of Americans from all backgrounds.
Amidst the condolences, salutations and outpouring of respect, admiration and good-will comes the not-unexpected, but still disappointing comments of The Man Who Would be King– Donald Trump
Trump’s disparaging comments about a man whose selfless dedication to democratic principles and American values are far worse that saddening– especially because the former president who remains the antithesis of presidential offered not one word of condolence.
“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media,” Trump said in a statement. “Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO [Republican in Name Only], if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!””
So says the man who made an even bigger mistake on Covid-19, and remains too insecure or perhaps immature to admit it.
As Biden noted, “Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. 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.”
Too bad the history books will never be able to truthfully say that Donald Trump ever put anything before himself– not country, not party, and especially not democratic values. Too bad he treated the presidency as a one long episode of “The Apprentice,” and “too bad-so sad” he will never have the universal respect of the American people.