AMERICA LOST A GREAT PATRIOT
A TRIBUTE TO MY MENTOR AND FRIEND – GENERAL COLIN POWELL (1937 – 2021)
The tributes have poured in from around the world – posted on social media, printed in the op-ed pages, heard on the cable news channels – anyone who had worked with or was associated with General Colin Powell knew they were part of something special. Over the past two decades, I was one of those lucky ones.
We first met when he became Secretary of State, and upon retiring from public service General Powell agreed to serve as the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s (USGLC) National Chair – an Advisory Council that included the who’s who of foreign policy dignitaries – Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, and others. He not only served in this role for more than 15 years but provided guidance and wisdom along the way given his deep conviction to the importance of America’s role in the world. Following is a modified statement I issued following his death on October 18.
America has lost a national treasure today and the North Star to the USGLC community. I join the entire USGLC family in mourning the loss of General Colin Powell, who served for more than 15 years as our National Chair. His contribution to our cause was truly unmatched and while his legacy will live on, he will most certainly be missed.
As a military leader, General Powell long believed in the imperative of our civilian tools of diplomacy, development, and foreign assistance. As Secretary of State, he led the effort to dramatically increase the U.S. Foreign Service and strengthen our diplomatic readiness. For those who served with him during his tenure at Foggy Bottom, he was beloved as the ultimate citizen-soldier.
While some choose to step back from the public arena after departing public service, General Powell used his particularly outsized influence as a voice for good in the years that followed. As the leader of the USGLC’s National Advisory Council, he spoke with a deep conviction that the military alone could not keep us safe and that only through engagement in the world could we advance our prosperity.
In a 2017 NY Times op-ed he wrote, “Throughout my career, I learned plenty about war on the battlefield, but I learned even more about the importance of finding peace. And that is what the State Department and U.S.A.I.D. do: prevent the wars that we can avoid, so that we fight only the ones we must.”
The last public USGLC event General Powell joined was our 25th anniversary celebration. After the interview, we talked and talked about the state of the world, how proud he was of the years of our work together, and the imperative that America continues to lead. By the end of the conversation, we both had teared up along with his long-time assistance, and my friend Peggy Cifrino – I was certainly crying. Today, the USGLC lost a champion and I lost an incredible friend who showed me the best of service to our country and who guided USGLC towards a stronger, wiser path. For that I will forever be grateful.
He closed our conversation sharing this message with the USGLC community: “We are the most powerful country in the world. We have more riches or resources than any other country and have had it that way for many, many decades now. And so when we see problems around the world, when we see nations that are in trouble, we’re America! We reach out to people. We’ve done it over and over again, because that’s who we are.” We were blessed by his contributions and never-ending leadership. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family.