Why Colin Powell Was A Spectacular Leader


Sabrina Lo, Staff Writer

Some people break barriers, setting the standards for the future generations. Think of all the celebrated individuals that you’ve ever learned about. How many people have served in the Army, won the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and were elected to be Secretary of State? These tasks sound impossible, but one man did it all. His name was Colin Luther Powell, and he was a spectacular leader.

General Powell passed away on Oct. 18. He was born in Harlem, NY to two Jamaican parents. Growing up through high school, he was just an average C student. When General Powell was an undergraduate with a major in geology at the City College of New York, he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps. This program changed his life forever. By the end of his 35 years of serving in the military, Powell eventually became a Four Star General (the highest rank one can achieve in the army), and was appointed the highest military position in the Department of Defense (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). 

On Feb. 5, 2003, General Powell gave a speech to the United Nations Security Council, concerning the Iraq War. Many have argued that he indirectly caused this war because he provided false information about Iraq, which led the U.S. to invade Iraq. Despite all of the accomplishments he achieved, this single incident was the cause of much backlash General Powell had to face from people like former President Donald Trump and the Iraqi people. 

Although I, too, agree that justifying the Iraq War was not professional of General Powell and was most definitely wrong, it was not 100% General Powell’s fault in terms of the false accusations that he provided. General Powell told the media multiple times that the information he shared was carefully approved by the U.S. intelligence agencies. This can not overpower everything else that General Powell accomplished in his lifetime. In fact, he broke barriers by becoming the first African American Secretary of State. 

When General Powell served as the National Security Advisor during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, he played a crucial role in coordinating advisers, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, during the president’s meetings with the Soviet Union. Reagan and Gorbachev were later able to sign the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty in 1987. 

Furthermore, though General Powell was a declared Republican much of his life, he often endorsed Democratic presidents such as Barack Obama and Joe Biden. After the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Powell “severed ties with the GOP”. He told a CNN reporter that he is just a citizen who has voted for both parties. This sense of fairness between the two parties demonstrates how he was not just a man for politics, but also wanted to truly impact the world in a positive way. 

Many former presidents paid tribute to General Powell. President Joe Biden acknowledged his personality.

“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” said Biden. “He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all.” 

In a statement, former President Barack Obama said, “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.”

When Obama was talking about General Powell’s ability to “acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right,” one of the clear examples of this was when General Powell often said that his Iraq speech was a “blot on his record.” Rather than trying to cover it up, he faced the problem and knew what he did was wrong.

All of the aforementioned points exemplify why General Powell was such a successful leader. The point of learning history is to try not to repeat its mistakes, so I believe that General Powell’s actions were ones to learn from. Nevertheless, he was an exceptional human being who accomplished so much.