Politicians and world leaders are reacting after the death of Colin Powell, a Vietnam War veteran who rose to the rank of four-star general and became both the first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State. Powell died of complications related to COVID-19 Monday morning, according to his family. He was 84.
President Joe Biden said he is “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death, and said that Powell helped shape America.
“From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.”
Former President George Bush and former first lady Laura Bush released a statement through the George W. Bush President Center.
“He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”
Former President Barack Obama remembered Powell as an “exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot.”
“Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute. And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served,” wrote Obama on Twitter.
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Powell was a “dedicated diplomat.”
“He lived the promise of America, and spent a lifetime working to help our country, especially our young people, live up to its own ideals and noblest aspirations at home and around the world,” said a statement released on behalf of the Clintons.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Powell’s diplomacy, writing on Twitter, “Today we lost an extraordinary leader and great man: Colin Powell … He was an exceptional diplomat.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice remembered Powell’s friendship.
“He was a trusted colleague and a dear friend through some very challenging times. His devotion to our nation was not limited to the many great things he did while in uniform or during his time spent in Washington,” she said.
Others who worked with Powell in Washington, D.C. called Powell a friend as well.
“General Powell’s character, skill, and decency have left an enduring legacy, and he offered as fine a model of leadership as I have ever known,” wrote CIA Director Bill Burns. “I had the honor of working for him at both the National Security Council staff and the State Department, and have always treasured him as mentor and friend.”
“As a young officer, General Powell rendered brave and distinguished service on the front lines,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “As a senior leader, he helped four presidents protect our nation, represent us on the world stage, and chart our course through uncertain and turbulent times that included the dawn of a new century and the beginning of our global war on terrorists who will not leave America alone even if we leave them alone.”
The NAACP noted Powell’s global influence.
“Gen. Colin Powell lived a life of honor and integrity,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. “A four-star general, the first Black US Secretary of State, and an NAACP Spingarn Medal recipient. He was a good man who inspired many.”
Governor Kathy Hochul called the native New Yorker a trailblazer.
Hochul ordered flags on state buildings in New York to be lowered to half-staff in Powell’s honor. His presence will also be missed at his alma mater, The City College of New York, where the school for civic and global leadership bears Powell’s name.
“No words seem adequate at this moment,” said Andrew Rich, Dean of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. “This school is his. He was our leader and our friend. His pride in this place gave all of us strength, and we are heartbroken.”
Rich said Powell attended every graduation and always shook hands with graduates. That kindness extended beyond New York.
“He was wonderful to work with, he inspired loyalty and respect and was one of those leaders who always treated those under them with kindness and concern,” said former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. “His life stands as a testament not only to dedicated public service but also a strong belief in willingness to work across partisan division in the interests of his country.”
President Joe Biden ordered flags to fly at half-staff until Friday.
Powell is survived by his wife Alma, their three children, and grandchildren.