Colin Powell: Go forth to make this an even more perfect union, go forth and raise strong families and remember that all you can ever leave behind is your reputation, your good works, and your children for the next generation.
Host: As we're coming toward the close of today's show, I want to switch gears just a bit. Colin Powell, the first Black United States Secretary of State passed away on Monday due to complications from COVID-19. He was 84 years old. Powell, a four-star army general was also the first Black National Security Advisor and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The son of Jamaican immigrant parents, Powell was born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx. When asked in 1992 who his biggest influences were, he did not hesitate.
Colin Powell: I always have to start out by saying my parents, two wonderful Jamaican Americans who lived a good life, who raised a fine family.
Host: It was his nearly 60-year marriage to his beloved Alma that brought him the most joy. Colin and Alma were married less than a year after they went on their first date and just before he was sent off to Vietnam. Powell would return a new father, crafting a military career where he would move up the ranks, making a name for himself along the way. Yes, it's the one moment in that groundbreaking career while serving as the first Black Secretary of State that so many of us remember.
Colin Powell: What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts and Iraq's behavior demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort to disarm as required by the International Community.
Host: General Powell was an almost universally trusted figure when he made the case to the United Nations and it was his reputation that added significant credibility to evidence, which we now know was wildly inaccurate. The president was determined, the US Congress was in broad agreement and many in the post 911 American public were supportive of the invasion of Iraq, but it is important to acknowledge that it was the testimony of this trusted soldier, which helped launch the US into the Iraq war. The conflict lasted a decade and claimed thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. In the years after his tenure, Secretary of State Powell would speak of his regret for his involvement in the ramp-up to war.
Colin Powell: I regret it now because the information was wrong. Of course, we do, but I will always be seen as the one who made the case before the International Community. I tried to avoid this war. It is a blot on my record, but there's nothing I can do to change that blot.
Host: In later years, Powell kept a toe in the political waters though he did so from the periphery, but in 2008, he surprised many with his endorsement for President of the United States. Here he is on Meet the Press.
Colin Powell: I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities and we have to take that into account, as well as his substance, he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage and for that reason, I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.
Host: Powell was deeply committed to the American ideal and the next generation of leaders. An alum of the City College of New York. In 1997, he established the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, which would later be called The Colin Powell's School of Civic and Global Leadership. Here's how the dean of that school remembered Powell during an interview with Fox 5 New York.
Dean: He really believed to his core in what we're doing in providing an education to all people, particularly of New York City. We're 50% immigrants. We are 75% of first in their families to go to college, 80% people of color.
Host: Reflecting on the passing of Congressman John Lewis last year, General Powell had this to say on Face the Nation.
Colin Powell: Most of my life now is spent on education of young people and helping out my fellow citizens who are on the lower economic scale and how do we get them up? We have to now move on to new things and not just slogans and we have to make sure that we are putting everything we can into the needs of our fellow citizens, whatever they may be, whoever they may be in order to bring them back into the world, into America and make sure they have the same opportunity that John Lewis wanted all of us to have.
Host: General Powell's legacy is not unblemished. He made costly mistakes that he was unable to remedy by apology alone. As we mark his passing, we know that the takeaway of Colin Powell's long life of service is complex and powerful like the man himself. General Colin Powell, the first Black Secretary of State gone at the age of 84. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Powell family at this time.
We asked about your thoughts on the man and his legacy.
Male Speaker 1: The first time I heard Colin Powell speak was in the late eighties and I would have voted for him for president after that day. It's so unfortunate to know that such a committed and intelligent person had to quit his conservative party.
Female Speaker 1: Hi, it's Brook Josephs from San Mateo, California. I very much admired Collin Powell. I believe in public service and I think he was one of the best modern examples that we have.
Keith Tillman: My name is Keith Tillman from Salem, Oregon. Over the years, I developed a very healthy respect for Collin Powell right up until the second Iraq war. I still have a lot of respect for Colin Powell, but it will always be yes, lots of respect, but and at least he had the courage to admit he was wrong.
Andy Wiener: This is Andy Wiener from Charleston, South Carolina. Colin Powell was a man who cared about the country and never put his own ambition above honesty. He was an honest broker of the truth and that could be used a lot today.
Mark Harper: Hey, it's Mark Harper in Little Rock, Arkansas. Colin Powell to me was the embodiment of what every politician statesman should be.
Roxanne: Hi, my name is Roxanne, I'm calling from Los Angeles. We lost a great American in Colin Powell. We lost a statesman and we lost a stable person in our American community where we really need that guidance and wisdom more than ever now. It is a great loss and we should all be in moaning.
Dee: Hi, this is Dee from Yonkers New York. It is an immensely sad day for me today. When I think about Secretary of State Powell, I think of a person whose footsteps I walked in. As a child of immigrants from the Caribbean, as a Black child growing up in the Bronx, as a person who has had the opportunity to be the first in many different situations, he and I both had heavy weights to bear, but he took that and shouldered that with class and grace and style and with the strength of character that people understood to know that although he was graceful, although he did have class, although he did carry himself with dignity, that he was not wanting to be trifled with. I can only hope to have the legacy, even just one part of the legacy that he has left behind. For his family, for those who are close to him, I wish them nothing but peace and for him, grace as he takes his final walk.
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