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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Former colleagues from hundreds gathered to honor pioneer Colin Powell

Robert Burns and Matthew Lee | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Colin L. Powell, a pioneering soldier diplomat who went from humble beginnings to becoming the first black secretary of state, is remembered by family and friends of Friday as a principled man of humility and grace, whose brilliant leadership track record can serve as a model for future generations.

“Colin Powell’s example does not encourage us to emulate his resume, which is too formidable for mere mortals,” said his son Michael in a touching tribute at his father’s funeral service at Washington National Cathedral. “This is done in order to imitate his character and his example as a person. We can strive for this. “

The funeral on a sunny and cool day brought together dignitaries and friends from various political and military circles. Among them were President Joe Biden and former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, former Secretaries of State James Baker, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General of the Army Mark Millie.

Two recent presidents were absent – Bill Clinton, who is recovering from a severe infection, and Donald Trump, who publicly denounced Powell after his death for criticizing the former president.

Michael Powell touches his father’s coffin during a Friday memorial service. Michael Powell was one of three worshipers of the service. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press) #

Powell died on October 18 from complications from COVID-19 at the age of 84. He was vaccinated against the coronavirus, but his family said his immune system was compromised by multiple myeloma, a blood cancer for which he was being treated.

Those attending the funeral on Friday were required to wear masks. Not everyone did.

As guests gathered in the huge cathedral, where the funerals of several past presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, were held, the US Army brass quintet played a number of tunes, including “The Dancing Queen” by Abba, Powell’s favorite.

Richard Armitage, who was second in the State Department while Powell was Secretary of State during the Bush administration, remembered the day that Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde called and, knowing Powell’s affection for Abba, presented him with a full set of CDs. with the band’s music.

“Colin immediately got down on one knee and sang the entire Mamma Mia to the very surprised Swedish Foreign Minister and the stunned US delegation. They’ve never seen anything like it, ”Armitage said, describing a 40-year friendship with Powell that began when they both served at the Pentagon.

Madeleine Albright, who was Powell’s immediate predecessor as secretary of state, called him “a figure who almost surpassed his time” and “one of the softest and most decent people we have ever met.”

“He enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other generations,” she said.

“This morning my heart hurts,” she added, “because we have lost a friend, and our nation has lost one of the best and most loyal soldiers. Nevertheless, even when we think about the scale of our loss, we almost hear a familiar voice that asks us – no, orders us – to stop being sad, to turn our gaze from the past to the future and continue to communicate with the people. business while making the most of our days on Earth, step by step. “

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During her tenure as ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton administration, Albright occasionally clashed with Powell, although they became good friends. Both recalled how, in his final months as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, she advocated US military intervention in the Balkans, asking why the United States had built an excellent army if it could not be used in the circumstances. Powell recalled how annoyed she was when she said, “I thought I was going to have an aneurysm.”

Powell argues that the United States should only use its military when it has a clear and achievable political goal, a key element of what has come to be known as the Powell Doctrine, which embodied the lessons learned from the US defeat in Vietnam.

Powell’s success story in American life is a classic.

In his autobiography, My American Journey, Powell recalled his 1940s childhood in the Hunts Point area of ​​the South Bronx, New York, where he was a mediocre student – careless but aimless.

He caught a military mistake during his freshman year at City College of New York in 1954. Powell was inspired by the fact that he saw fellow students in uniform, and he entered the training corps of reserve officers.

“I felt special” in uniform, he wrote.

Former colleagues from hundreds gathered to honor pioneer Colin Powell
President Joe Biden (left to right), First Lady Jill Biden, Former President Barack Obama, Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Former President George W. Bush, Former First Lady Laura Bush and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attend Powell’s funeral. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press) #

Although he was only 4 years old when the United States entered World War II, he had vivid memories of the war years. “I deployed legions of leading soldiers and led the battles on the living room rug,” he wrote – a fantastic harbinger of his army years.

Powell will serve in military uniform for 35 years. Commissioned in 1958, it has served around the world, including two tours in Vietnam in the 1960s.

He distinguished himself at the Pentagon even before he was promoted to flagship officer. In the late 1970s, he worked in the office of the Minister of Defense, and in 1983, as a brigadier general, became the senior military assistant to the Minister of Defense, Kaspar Weinberger. He later worked in the White House as National Security Adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and in 1989 he was promoted to a four-star general. Later that year, President George W. Bush elected him as the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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