Gen. Colin POWELL : Integrity. Decency. An exemplary public servant

Gen. Colin POWELL : Integrity. Decency. An exemplary public servant

The recent passing of Gen Colin Powell, 84, leaves a moral and leadership vacuum in Washington, D.C. where decent virtues and sense of purpose are seriously in short supply and have been so for a while, peaking during the four years of Donald Trump’s shambolic presidency. Because of Trump, America will never be the same again, now busy leaking its racist and divisive wounds that Trump has left us.

Powell was a trail blazer, and was impressively humble about it, instead choosing to credit the giants like Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders that cleared the path for him, and on whose giant shoulders he rode on to become the first black Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A young Colin Powell

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell’s rise to the top posts in government speaks volumes about his tenacity, focus, hard work and a willingness to challenge racism in America. He will go down in history as the only person to be asked by both Democrats and Republicans to run for president. He declined, not surprising, because he did not take himself too seriously. Smaller men would have jumped on the occasion.

Never forgetting his roots and humble beginnings, Powell went on to encourage fellow immigrants and black Americans to work hard and not make hand-outs the blueprint of their lives. His swift rise in the military, sharpened during his gallant performance during the Vietnam war encouraged blacks and other minorities to step forward and be counted. Because of him and his examples of distinguished service many served with distinction and honor.

A long life Republican, Powell shocked his party when he endorsed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both Democrats for President. His moral clarity was a thing to behold. He never shied away from reminding the country, constantly, that Donald Trump was not morally fit to run, later on become President of the United States. That is stuff great men are made of. True to form, he was so right.

Following his retirement, Powell embarked on a different kind of public service: encouraging minority young students through The Powell Foundation to take their education seriously. No job was too small or too big for this gentle Giant who never let power and fame get the better of him.

In 1991 I read in Newsweek that the General was an avid part time mechanic who loved to work on his Volvo. At the time I owned a 244 Volvo whose AC system constantly malfunctioned. Wittingly I wrote the good General seeking his opinion, never expecting an answer. I was wrong. Below is his answer that he personally typed and signed:

Response letter to me from Collin Powell

I refuse to say that any mortal is irreplaceable. That is a fallacy and small mindedness. Gen Powell has left a giant imprint on the conscience of America, the military and civil society that is a valuable civic lesson. His legacy, I hope, will be a good lesson to those in public service: dedication, selfless service, honesty and humility.

In one of his last television interviews, Powell was asked how he was dealing with his cancer and Parkinson’s debilitation. True to the warrior he was he said, “I have not lost a day fighting this sickness.”

Gen Colin Powell was an American treasure whose shoes will be hard to fill. He served with distinction and has earned his place in history.

Old soldiers never die. They simply fade away.