S. E. Williams |
Once viewed by many the world over as the most highly respected Black man in America, Powell, America’s first Black Secretary of State, succumbed to complications related to COVID-19 early Monday.
Although Powell was fully vaccinated and, according to reports, planned to receive a vaccine booster shot, the combination of his age and underlying health conditions, left his body incapable of defeating the aggressive Delta variant.
His credentials were hard to match, and during his career he reached the highest pinnacles of national success and was well regarded around the world.
A retired four-star general who spent 35 years in the military, Powell served as national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs and as noted, Secretary of State.
Once counted among the nation’s most recognizable Black Republicans, his political star power was elevated by Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
During the peak of his political career, it was almost assumed he would be the first viable Black candidate for president of the United States.
That never came to pass however, reportedly largely due to concerns for safety expressed by Powell’s wife.
To many Republicans and others, it appeared Powell could do no wrong, that is until he risked his stellar reputation in support of the George W. Bush and the Republican Party’s insistence that America needed to attack Iraq due to its pursuit of a nuclear weapon—claiming the country had the materials and was in the process of development. It was Powell’s testimony before the United Nations that convinced many doubters that the Republican Party claims were true—they were not. In subsequent years Powell would publicly acknowledge and express regret for his failure on this issue.
Far from an outspoken advocate on issues important to the Black community
Also, during the peak of his political power, not unlike other Black Republicans, Powell remained largely mute on issues of race. As a result, he was never viewed as an advocate for the Black community.
Powell, however, was an advocate for Affirmative Action—against the mainstream of the Republican Party though he never pushed strongly to make a difference. He did however break with his party in 2008 when he offered full-throated support for then presidential candidate Barack Obama. He endorsed him a second time in 2012.
What it took to finally break away from the Republican Party
However, it was not until after the January 6, 2021, and the grievous attack on the U.S. Capitol that Powell finally denounced the Republican Party for good.
As reported in January by CNN Powell stated, “I can no longer call myself a fellow Republican. I’m not a fellow of anything right now. I’m just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my entire career. And right now, I’m just watching my country and not concerned with parties.”
He continued, “They should have known better, but they were so taken by their political standing and how none of them wanted to put themselves at political risk. They would not stand up and tell the truth or stand up and criticize [Trump] or criticize others.”
Powell stressed during the interview that the nation needs elected officials who will speak the truth, who remember that they are here to serve their fellow citizens. “They are here for our country. They are not here simply to be re-elected again.”
The party that once heralded Powell as a champion and leader, did not heed his words then and he is now being criticized in death by Republican Party leader and former president, Donald Trump.
Referring to Powell as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) Trump was quick to define Powell as a man who made a lot of “mistakes.”
Not surprisingly, another former Republican president, George W. Bush, disagreed. “He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier in Vietnam,” Bush wrote. “He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice.”
Continuing, Bush affirmed. “He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”
Powell is survived by his wife Alma and three children.
Header photo: (source: facebook.com)