This week, we take a collective breath to honor the passing of a great American, Colin Powell. Some of us remember him best as a four-star General who led our military to a victory in the Gulf War era; some of us remember best his role as Secretary of State for our country.
As his autobiography was aptly named, Colin Powell’s life truly represented “My American Journey.” He grew up in the Bronx with immigrant parents from Jamaica. His childhood exemplified the melting pot experience of our country. Mr. Powell’s success and understanding of our nation stemmed from his youth, where he was surrounded by many cultures.
His education came from the public school system, including Morris High School in the South Bronx and City College in New York City. His success story was deeply rooted in the fiber of diversity and hard work, which our immigrant nation has long embraced.
One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Mr. Powell, “Leadership is solving problems.” This quote has always stuck with me, and I think of his words even today. He was often blunt and to the point when speaking. He was known for what journalists termed the “Powell Doctrine,” which recommended “overpowering and decisive force” when exercising American military force. This strategy led to success in the Gulf War and in other conflicts.
For nearly four decades, Mr. Powell was often the subject of dinner table conversations throughout America, as he guided our nation through many conflicts during his service in the U.S. military. Mr. Powell steadily rose in rank in the U.S. Army, where he served from 1958-1993. He joined ROTC during his first year in college and ultimately became a four-star General. He served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, following his retirement from the military, was appointed to the role of Secretary of State under President George W. Bush in 2001.
Mr. Powell was a diplomat who served his country. He was a trailblazer who paved the way for diverse leadership in America. Among the many ‘firsts’ of his career, he broke racial barriers in becoming National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State.
The global pandemic has impacted our nation and world in ways that we cannot yet comprehend. This week we lost a leader who was considered one of the “most admired Americans” for his ability through the years to guide us through many conflicts. Mr. Powell died of complications from COVID-19. His legacy will be remembered through his writings, his teachings, and his family.
Sources: AP Newswire, New York Times, Wikipedia, https://www.jcs.mil/About/The-Joint-Staff/Chairman/General-Colin-Luther-Powell/