Colin Powell recently passed away on Oct. 18 due to him being immunocompromised. He had complications from both COVID-19 and having multiple myeloma i.e., cancer of his plasma blood cells. He was the first black U.S. Secretary of State and was considered to have shaped American foreign policy for numerous years in both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Powell’s parents both immigrated from Jamaica, but Powell was born in New York City. Contrasting the career he had in his life, Powell majored in Geology as an undergraduate at the City College of New York.
While at CCNY, Powell was a part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. This allowed him to be commissioned once he graduated in 1958. Powell was in the U.S. Army for 35 years, where he held many positions and moved up the ranks, eventually becoming a four-star general.
Powell became Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command in 1989, which is a huge change from being a student at CCNY majoring in Geology. While in the Army, Powell saw the world change a lot. When Powell was a Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman from 1989 to 1993, he witnessed 28 crises throughout the world. Some of these crises included Panama’s invasion and Operation Desert Storm.
As a result of Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War, the Powell Doctrine was created. This doctrine gives guidelines of when military action is constituted once certain criteria are met. Others’ opinions about the Powell Doctrine seem more about the man who created it, than the doctrine itself. Those who did have an opinion on the doctrine saw it as something that must live on. People admired that Powell would acknowledge limits that he had.
Under former President George W. Bush, Powell became the 65th U.S. Secretary of State. Considering Powell’s race as well, he became a beacon of hope for those who aspire to be in positions he once was.
Powell wrote numerous books as well, most notably his memoir “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” and his autobiography “My American Journey.”
After his career within the government Powell became a public speaker. He spoke to audiences all over the world. Surprisingly enough, Powell also received votes to become President of the U.S. in the 2016 election. These three electoral votes were from Washington, though Powell was not even a candidate.
Throughout his life Powell won many awards, both from the U.S. and some foreign military awards. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Powell, unfortunately, will be most remembered for his achievement of becoming the first black U.S. Secretary of State, rather than what he has contributed to society. Those who do not know of Powell will hopefully see that him having been a child of immigrant parents and achieving what he did, might also inspire them to believe that they can achieve anything that they set their minds towards just as Powell did.