Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff died early October 18 after complications caused by COVID-19, according to his family. He was 84 years old.
As the family put it: “General Powell was fully vaccinated, and we want to thank the staff of the Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American.”
Moving tributes abound
Within hours after this great loss was announced, General Powell’s impact was hailed by leaders around the globe:
“Colin Powell was a good man. He will be remembered as one of our great Americans. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody else, something I learned firsthand on the racetrack when I was vice president. I am forever grateful for our shared battle for the soul of our nation”.
—President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Colin was a towering figure in American military and political leadership for many years, a person of enormous capacity and integrity. He was a warm and sympathetic personality and an amazing companion with a nice and self-deprecating sense of humor.”
—Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
General Powell will always be known for his famous prescription for high-level decision-makers:
“Don’t take action if you have only information to give you only a 40% chance of being right. But don’t wait until you have enough facts to be 100% sure. Because by then, it is almost always too late. Once the information is in the 40-70% range, go with your gut.”
The great adviser served in a variety of formal roles in dealing with national security issues between the late 1980s and his retirement as Secretary of State in 2005. It’s likely that administrations have reached out to him for informal counsel since then.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin summed it all up: “The world has lost one of the greatest leaders we have ever witnessed. Alma lost an amazing husband, and the family lost an amazing father, and I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always took time for me. I could go to him on how to deal with hard problems. He always had good advice.”
In the coming years and decades, historians and the general public will join in lauding the great counselor, General Colin L. Powell.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More