By ROBERT BURNS and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Friends, family and former colleagues pay tribute to Colin L. Powell, the much-loved Private Diplomat who rose from humble Bronx beginnings to becoming the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then was the first black secretary. of state.
Powell is remembered at a funeral Friday at the Washington National Cathedral. President Joe Biden is expected to attend but not to speak. The praise must be Madeleine Albright, who predated Powell as the country’s top diplomat; Richard Armitage, who was Under Secretary under Powell and had known him since they served together in the Pentagon under the Reagan administration; and Powell’s son, Michael.
Powell died of complications from COVID-19 on October 18 at the age of 84. He had been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but his family said his immune system had been compromised by multiple myeloma, a blood cancer for which he was undergoing treatment.
The story of Powell’s rise to power in American life is a historical example for many.
Political cartoons about world leaders
In his autobiography, âMy American Journey,â Powell recalls a post-depression childhood in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx in New York City, where he was a mediocre student – happy but aimless.
He caught the military virus during his freshman year at City College, New York in 1954. Powell was inspired to see other students in uniform and he enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. from school.
âI felt distinctiveâ in uniform, he wrote. He would distinguish himself in a pioneering career in the army.
Even though he was only 4 years old when the United States entered World War II, he had vivid memories of the war years. âI have deployed legions of toy soldiers and led battles on the living room rug,â he wrote – a fantastic precursor to his years in the military.
Powell will serve 35 years in uniform. Commissioned in 1958 as a second lieutenant, he served as a platoon leader in what was then called West Germany, and in 1962 was deployed to Vietnam for a year as an adviser to a South Vietnamese infantry battalion. During this tour he was injured; he made a second tour of Vietnam in 1968 and then served various missions at home and abroad.
He distinguished himself in the Pentagon even before reaching the rank of general officer. In the late 1970s he worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense, and in 1983 as a Brigadier General he became the Senior Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. He then served in the White House as President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor, and in 1989 he was promoted to Four-Star General. Later that year, President George HW Bush chose him to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
“He was such a favorite of presidents that he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice,” former President George W. Bush said when announcing Powell’s death.
It was a pioneering American dream trip that earned him international fame and trust.
He put that credibility on the line in February 2003 when, appearing before the United Nations as Secretary of State, he argued for the war against Iraq. When it turned out that the intelligence he cited was flawed and the war in Iraq turned into a bloody and chaotic nightmare, Powell’s stellar reputation was damaged.
Yet it was not destroyed. After leaving government, he became an elderly statesman on the world stage and the founder of an organization aimed at helping underprivileged young Americans. Republicans wanted him to run for president. After being disappointed with his party, he ended up approving the last three Democratic presidential candidates, who praised his support.
Powell’s influence was felt at the highest levels of the U.S. defense establishment long after he retired from public life. Lloyd Austin, who in January became the first black secretary of defense, called Powell a friend and a professional mentor. Like Powell, Austin rose through the military ranks to become a four-star general.
On the day Powell died, Austin called him “one of the greatest leaders we have ever seen.”
Powell was among several prominent national security leaders to die this year, including George Shultz, who served in President Ronald Reagan’s cabinet and was Secretary of State under President George HW Bush; and Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was twice Secretary of Defense. Just weeks before Powell’s death, a former commander of US forces in Iraq, Army General Raymond Odierno, died of cancer.
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