Biden Calls Colin Powell a ‘Patriot of Unmatched Honor and Dignity.’
Biden Remembers Colin Powell as a ‘Dear Friend and a Patriot’
President Biden honored Mr. Powell, the nation’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state, calling him a great military leader and a man of overwhelming decency.
Well, I became friends with Colin Powell, who we just lost. Think of what Colin Powell is — not only a dear friend and a patriot, one of our great military leaders and a man of overwhelming decency. But this is a guy born a son of immigrants in New York City, raised in Harlem, in the South Bronx, graduated from City College of New York, and he rose to the highest ranks, not only in the military, but also in areas of foreign policy and statecraft. This is a guy, and we talk about it, who had teachers who looked at this African American kid and said, “You can do anything.” So all I want to say to you really is don’t underestimate — don’t underestimate what you do.
President Biden honored Mr. Powell, the nation’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state, calling him a great military leader and a man of overwhelming decency.CreditCredit…Paul Hosefros/The New York Times
President Biden called Colin L. Powell a “patriot of unmatched honor and dignity” and ordered government flags to fly at half-staff through Friday.
Mr. Powell was the nation’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. During his time in public service, he worked closely with Mr. Biden, who was then a senator.
“Over our many years working together — even in disagreement — Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect,” Mr. Biden said. “Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat.”
Vice President Kamala Harris praised Mr. Powell as “an independent thinker and a barrier breaker who inspired leaders in our military and throughout our nation.”
Mr. Biden did not mention Mr. Powell’s role in selling the Iraq War to the American public based on faulty intelligence, which led to one of Mr. Powell’s biggest regrets. The president highlighted Mr. Powell’s record as a war veteran and how it informed his approach to politics and diplomacy.
Mr. Biden added that Mr. Powell’s “front-seat view of history,” from advising presidents and shaping the country’s policies, was underpinned by his “personal commitment to democratic values.”
“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,” Mr. Biden said.
He said Mr. Powell, a son of Jamaican immigrants who was born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx, “believed in the promise of America because he lived it.”
“He devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others,” Mr. Biden said, pointing to how he broke racial barriers within the federal government.
“Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times,” Mr. Biden said.
In 2020, Mr. Powell, a longtime Republican who rejected the party under Donald J. Trump, said he would vote for Mr. Biden.
“I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation,” Mr. Biden said.
He and the first lady, Jill Biden, shared their condolences with the Powell family, saying, “Our nation mourns with you.”
Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The death of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Monday from complications of Covid-19 has provided fuel for vaccine skeptics and opponents, who immediately seized on the news that Mr. Powell had been vaccinated to stoke doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines.
But Mr. Powell’s immune system had most likely been weakened by multiple myeloma, a cancer of white blood cells. Both the disease and the treatment can make people more susceptible to infections.
His age, 84, may also have increased his risk, scientists said.
Mr. Powell received his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February, said Peggy Cifrino, his longtime aide. He had been scheduled for a booster last week but fell ill before he received it, she said.
Although Mr. Powell’s death is a high-profile tragedy, scientists stressed that it should not undermine confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines, which drastically reduce the odds of severe disease and death.
“Nothing is 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The point of getting a vaccine is that you want to know that the benefits clearly and definitively outweigh the risks. And we know that for this vaccine.”
The vaccines are highly effective, even against the more contagious Delta variant, which is now responsible for nearly all infections in the United States. People who are fully vaccinated are roughly 10 times less likely to be hospitalized and 11 times less likely to die from Covid-19, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A New York Times analysis of data from 40 states found that fully vaccinated people have accounted for 0.2 to 6 percent of Covid-19 deaths.
Among the more than 187 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated, there have been 7,178 deaths, according to the C.D.C. Eighty-five percent of those deaths have been in people 65 or older.
“Breakthrough deaths with vaccinated individuals do occur,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “But there are certain groups that are at greater risk.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been clear that older adults are the most likely to develop severe Covid-19. They also have less robust immune systems in general and mount a weaker immune response to the vaccines.
In one recent study, which has not yet been reviewed by experts, researchers found that residents of Canadian long-term care homes, who had a median age of 88, produced levels of neutralizing antibodies roughly five- to sixfold lower after vaccination than did staff members, who had a median age of 47.
“This puts them at risk for not only getting infected by Covid but also having severe consequences,” said Anne-Claude Gingras, a senior investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the lead author of the study.
Mr. Powell had also undergone treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells make antibodies and thus play a critical role in the immune system.
Both the disease and the treatment — which may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and steroids — can leave patients more vulnerable to infections.
“Colin was undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma but seemed to be responding well,” Kathy Giusti, who founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and met Mr. Powell when he spoke at a foundation event, said in a statement. “Immunosuppression is a well-known side effect of cancer treatment and a reminder that as patients, we are at high risk, especially if also over 65 years of age.”
Vaccines are also likely to be less effective in people with multiple myeloma.
“Unfortunately, the cancer itself suppresses the normal immune system,” said Dr. James Berenson, the medical and scientific director of the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research in West Hollywood, Calif.
In a study published in July, Dr. Berenson and his colleagues found that just 45 percent of those with active multiple myeloma “developed an adequate response” after receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
People who received the Pfizer vaccine had lower antibody levels than Moderna recipients, on average, the researchers found. Older patients and those who were not yet in complete remission also had lower antibody levels.
It is unclear what kind of treatment Mr. Powell received for his multiple myeloma or whether he was in full remission. But even patients who are in remission may have compromised immune systems, Dr. Berenson said.
“They usually — not in all cases, but usually — maintain an immune-suppressed state even if they’ve had a good response to their treatment,” Dr. Berenson said.
Eric Schmitt and Christine Hauser contributed reporting.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Colin L. Powell, whose immune system was weakened by treatment for multiple myeloma, died of complications of Covid-19 despite being vaccinated, his family said in a statement.
Peggy Cifrino, Mr. Powell’s longtime aide, said that he had been successfully treated for multiple myeloma, a cancer of white blood cells in the bone marrow. People with multiple myeloma have compromised immune systems and are thus at greater risk of developing severe Covid-19. Vaccines are also likely to be less effective in these patients.
The family’s statement did not provide further details about the complications or underlying health conditions Mr. Powell had. It said he was treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center. Ms. Cifrino said Mr. Powell, 84, had gotten his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February and had been scheduled to get a third shot last week when he got sick, “so he wasn’t able to get that.” He had also been treated for early stages of Parkinson’s disease, she said.
“We encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” Ms. Cifrino said.
In a study published in July, researchers found that just 45 percent of those with active multiple myeloma “developed an adequate response” after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
Although the shots are critical in reducing severe disease and death from the coronavirus, such outcomes are not unexpected. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, experts say.
Severe Covid is rare in people who have been fully vaccinated.
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it had received reports of 10,262 breakthrough infections by April 30 — a tiny fraction of the 101 million Americans who had been vaccinated by that date. (The agency noted that the number most likely represented “a substantial undercount” of breakthrough infections.)
Of those breakthrough cases, 2 percent died — and in some of those cases, patients were hospitalized or died from something unrelated to Covid-19. The median age of those who died was 82.
Multiple myeloma wasn’t Mr. Powell’s first battle with cancer. In 2003, when he was secretary of state, he underwent surgery for prostate cancer.
In one of his last interviews, with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, he responded vehemently when Mr. Woodward expressed sympathy over his illnesses.
“Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes,” Mr. Powell said, noting his age. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.”
Eric Schmitt and Emily Anthes contributed reporting.
Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times
It didn’t take long after the death of Colin L. Powell for the conservative media to set off a debate over vaccinations, mandates and disinformation.
Some conservatives, seizing on the fact that Mr. Powell’s family said he was vaccinated, claimed that his death from complications of Covid-19 illustrated why vaccine hesitancy remained pervasive — overlooking the fact that Mr. Powell, who was 84, had serious underlying medical conditions that made him more vulnerable to the disease.
Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, said in an interview with Newsmax that he had received multiple messages on social media from people who cited Mr. Powell’s death as an example of why they remained skeptical about getting the shot. “‘They’re forcing me to take a vaccination that doesn’t really stop Covid,’” Mr. Kerik said, describing the messages he had received.
A Fox News anchor posted and then quickly deleted a comment on Twitter that Mr. Powell’s death “raises new concerns” about the long-term efficacy of Covid vaccines, drawing criticism from those who pointed out that Mr. Powell’s immune system had been weakened by multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that also makes vaccines less effective. He had to postpone getting a booster shot last week because he got sick, a spokeswoman said.
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and an ally of former President Donald J. Trump who has opposed vaccine mandates and mocked people for taking precautions like wearing masks, responded sarcastically to the death of Mr. Powell, a former secretary of state and a four-star general.
“Post-vaccine breakthrough infection kills more people than Iraq’s WMD’s ever did,” Mr. Gaetz said in a tweet, making a crude reference to the role Mr. Powell played in selling the invasion of Iraq by citing faulty evidence that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Other conservatives criticized news coverage that focused on the fact that Mr. Powell had been vaccinated, arguing that framing his death that way was stoking anxiety that could lead more people to fear resuming their pre-pandemic lives.
Rich Galen, a veteran Republican consultant, urged people to consider Mr. Powell’s death in context. “As to the passing of GEN Colin Powell of COVID complications despite having been vaccinated: It is important to remember that perfection is a religious, not a scientific (nor a political) concept,” Mr. Galen wrote on Twitter.
As students arrived at Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City, N.J., on Monday morning, Principal Teresita Diaz knew the day would be unlike any other. The flag was lowered to half-staff and the school held a moment of silence in honor of Mr. Powell.
“As a school, immediately, we needed to make sure he was recognized,” Ms. Diaz said, adding that the school was “blessed” to be named after Mr. Powell, particularly given his story of being born to immigrant parents that resonated with the area’s predominantly Hispanic community.
Ms. Diaz and other staff set up a tribute to Mr. Powell in the lobby, where a mural depicting a timeline of his life has hung on the wall since the school opened in 2013. They decorated the space with flowers, which were provided by the mayor and the board of education, and a collage of newspaper clippings and photos from when Mr. Powell visited the school on June 5, 2013. Another tribute was set up at the lobby’s fireplace, Ms. Diaz said.
The memorials will stay in place for 10 days, Ms. Diaz said, and the school plans to spend time each day talking about Mr. Powell, his legacy and why the school is named after him.
More than a dozen schools around the country have been named for Mr. Powell, and many paused on Monday to remember a man who, beyond his military and political credentials, was a passionate advocate for education and the role that teachers play in shaping the country’s future.
Colin L. Powell Elementary in The Woodlands, Texas, which serves kindergarten through fourth grade, was the first to be named. The school is inviting students and staff to wear red, white and blue on Tuesday, said Sarah Blakelock, a spokeswoman for the Conroe Independent School District, which includes most of The Woodlands.
Ms. Blakelock said that just before the start of the school year, the district had asked Mr. Powell to send words of support to teachers as they navigated the challenges of the pandemic. The video he made was “warm and inspirational,” she said.
At Colin Powell Elementary in Centreville, Va., second-grade students wrote letters to Mr. Powell’s family. Another Colin Powell Elementary, serving prekindergarten through fifth grade in Grand Prairie, Texas, shared an image on Facebook of Mr. Powell’s visit to the school in 1997, when it opened.
The flag was lowered to half-staff at Colin L. Powell Academy for Success in Long Beach, Calif., and Principal Ty Smith made an announcement reflecting on Mr. Powell’s contributions to the community and the country. The school is also creating lesson plans on Mr. Powell’s life that will be taught next week, Ms. Smith said.
“I’m an African-American woman, so being a principal in a school named for him is a special honor for me, not only for what he contributed to our country but also to the African-American community,” she said.
Higher education schools were also named after him, including the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York, Mr. Powell’s alma mater and the institution that laid the foundation for his military career.
“General Powell never missed a Colin Powell School graduation, and he took the time to shake the hand of every student earning a degree,” Andrew Rich, the dean of the school, said in a statement. “It’s hard to imagine graduation without him.”
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Colin L. Powell, the first Black secretary of state, had multiple myeloma: a form of blood cancer that hobbles the immune system and makes vaccines, including those for Covid-19, less effective.
The cancer attacks plasma cells, which build the antibodies essential to the body’s immune defenses. It also lives in the bone marrow, crowding out the spongy material in the middle of bones and preventing healthy plasma cells from being made. In addition to weakening the immune system, it can also lead to kidney damage.
Multiple myeloma seems to be random bad luck for those who develop the disease, and scientists cannot yet predict it based on genetic or environmental factors. But there are risk factors, and Mr. Powell had them. Being Black doubles the risk, as does being male. Nearly all multiple myeloma patients are over age 45. Mr. Powell was 84.
But it is rare, accounting for just 1.8 percent of cancers in the United States with 34,920 new cases a year, according to the National Cancer Institute, a rate that has remained stable for the past decade.
The cancer’s five-year survival rate is 55.6 percent, which has barely changed over the past decade despite the introduction of more sophisticated drugs. About 12,410 deaths per year, or 2 percent of national cancer deaths, are a result of multiple myeloma.
There is no known way to prevent the disease.
Patients in the early stages of multiple myeloma may not notice any symptoms; their disease might be detected in a routine blood or urine test. Later, when the disease is more advanced, patients may experience bone pain, fevers or frequent infections, exhaustion, trouble breathing and weakness in their arms or legs. Their skin might easily bruise, and their bones might easily break.
Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplants, in which the cells in a person’s bone marrow are deliberately destroyed and new cells are infused to repopulate the marrow. Those replacement cells could be the patient’s own blood-forming marrow cells, removed and stored before the marrow is destroyed, or they could be cells from a closely related donor. Stem cell transplants with the patient’s own cells can put the disease into remission, but it eventually returns.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a treatment designed to directly attack the cancer by harnessing the T cells of the patient’s own immune system, or by using drugs designed to block particular molecules on the surface of cancer cells.
From serving as President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser in 1987 to speaking with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office about efforts to reduce the high school dropout rate in 2010, here’s a look at Colin L. Powell’s military and political career in Washington.
Credit…Bob Daugherty/Associated Press
For hundreds of troops in desert-camouflage fatigues who gathered at a sprawling air base in Saudi Arabia to greet the visiting brass from Washington, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney was the boss. But Gen. Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the star.
It was late December 1990, and as a New York Times Pentagon correspondent, I had flown with Mr. Cheney and General Powell to the kingdom to inspect the huge American troop buildup in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait four months earlier.
Nerves were jittery. Just before we arrived, the troops had pulled on gas masks and rubber gloves and scrambled into sandbag bunkers as sirens wailed, fearing a poison-gas attack from Baghdad. False alarm. The alert had been called when Israel test-launched a missile into the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
For General Powell, a Vietnam War veteran and onetime brigade commander in the Army’s storied 101st Airborne Division, it was a chance to do what he liked best: mingle with soldiers.
After speaking to the assembled troops, General Powell drove to an artillery unit set up way out in the desert. He walked from foxhole to foxhole, talking to soldiers about the mission, about the weather, about camels (remember, it was Saudi Arabia).
He approached one young soldier in a foxhole filling sandbags. The soldier, without looking up, sensed somebody was standing near him and threw the sandbag, yelling, “Here, take it!”
General Powell caught the sandbag with a surprised look on his face. As the soldier turned around and looked up at the sudden commotion, he gasped, “Oh, my God!” General Powell just laughed.
Years later, when I reminded him of our visit in a 2007 interview, General Powell, the Harlem-born son of Jamaican immigrants, said it was easy to exude authority while also putting others at ease.
“It was just going back to where I came from, to my roots. I always felt that there wasn’t a day when I couldn’t go down and be a second lieutenant all over again,” he said. “Because I still knew what second lieutenants do.”
Credit…John McConnico/Associated Press
Born in the United States to Jamaican parents, Colin L. Powell was known to honor his heritage and acknowledge the contributions that West Indian immigrants made to America. In the wake of his death, Jamaican leaders are mourning his loss.
“I loved my upbringing,” Mr. Powell said in a 2012 interview with C-SPAN. “All of us who are immigrants — or not immigrants — have a special feeling for the family we are a part of and the place that we came from or they came from.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica shared his sympathies in a statement on Twitter. “On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family of former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, as well as the people of the United States,” he wrote.
He shared a photo of their meeting in 2018, saying, “We have had many good conversations and very interesting discussions about Jamaica.”
Portia Simpson-Miller, who was Jamaica’s prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2016, wrote on Twitter: “I am saddened to learn of the passing former Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and son of Jamaica, Colin Powell. He was an outstanding Soldier and Diplomat.”
In 2005, a bill — introduced by Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and then-Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware — was passed to change the name of the Crowne Plaza, which hosted the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, to the Colin L. Powell Residential Plaza.
Mr. Powell made notable visits to his parents’ native country. In 2012, he led a presidential delegation to Jamaica to attend a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence.
On a trip to Jamaica in 1997, Mr. Powell served as an international monitor observing the country’s parliamentary election. “I’m especially pleased to be home again,” he said. “It’s the place of my legacy, the home of my parents,” and the source of “the value system that fuels me today.”
Blinken Remembers Colin Powell as ‘Beloved’ by State Department
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken praised Colin Powell as an “extraordinary leader” and “exceptional diplomat.” A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of state and national security adviser, Mr. Powell died of Covid-19 after battling cancer.
Secretary Powell was beloved here at the State Department, at C Street, and at our embassies and consulates around the world. He came to the State Department after a long and extraordinary career in the U.S. armed forces. He was General Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he walked into the Oval Office to be sworn in as our nation’s top diplomat. After that, he was Mr. Secretary. He gave the State Department the very best of his leadership, his experience, his patriotism. He gave us his decency and the State Department loved him for it. I believe Secretary Powell’s years as a soldier are what made him such an exceptional diplomat. He knew that war and military action should always be a last resort. And to make that so, we need our diplomacy to be as robust and well-resourced as possible. He called for increased funding for State, which, then as now, was just a fraction of the Pentagon’s budget. He modernized the State Department, putting a computer on every desk. And he believed deeply that America was an exceptional nation, that we could and should lead with confidence and humility, and that the world was safer when the United States was engaged and its allies and partners were united. He was a man of ideas, but he wasn’t ideological. He was constantly listening, learning, adapting. He could admit mistakes. It was just another example of his integrity. As is probably evident by now, I was a huge admirer of Secretary Powell’s. I always will be, and he was very generous with me. This past Fourth of July, we spent a few precious hours together talking about the State Department, discussing all the challenges we’re confronting around the world. Two things were clear: Secretary Powell’s depth of knowledge about world events was unmatched, and he loved the State Department and wanted it to thrive. So today is a sad day for us here at State, especially for all those who worked for and with Secretary Powell, and we’ll never forget the experience.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken praised Colin Powell as an “extraordinary leader” and “exceptional diplomat.” A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of state and national security adviser, Mr. Powell died of Covid-19 after battling cancer.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Mandel Ngan
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken paid tribute on Monday to Colin L. Powell, calling him “an extraordinary leader and a great man” who was “beloved” at the State Department.
In remarks at the State Department, Mr. Blinken called Mr. Powell a model leader for America’s diplomatic corps who had trusted and relied on the expertise of career officials. He also praised Mr. Powell’s worldview, saying he had believed that “war and military action should be a last resort” and that “the world was safer when the U.S. was engaged and its allies and partners were united.”
Both phrases closely echoed language Mr. Blinken and President Biden have used to describe their administration’s approach to the world.
Mr. Blinken did not speak about Mr. Powell’s role as secretary of state in claiming incorrectly that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the basis for President George W. Bush’s costly invasion of the country. But he did say that Mr. Powell “could admit mistakes,” as he did over Iraq, calling it a mark of his integrity.
Saying he was “a huge admirer” of Mr. Powell, Mr. Blinken recalled that he had “spent a few precious hours” with him on July 4 of this year, discussing world events. He said that Mr. Powell had an unparalleled grasp of world events.
“Colin Powell dedicated his extraordinary life to public service because he never stopped believing in America,” Mr. Blinken said. “And we believe in America in no small part because it helped produce someone like Colin Powell.”
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised Mr. Powell’s “profound” 35 years of service in the military, in which he rose to the highest levels to become a Joint Chiefs chairman. “He inspired others throughout his life as an example to all of us in uniform — one of the greatest leaders who has ever worn the cloth of our nation,” Mr. Milley said in a statement.
Mr. Blinken said Mr. Powell was “arguably the most respected and celebrated American in uniform” who went on to become a great diplomat and leader.
“I believe that Secretary Powell’s years as a soldier are what made him such an exceptional diplomat,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that Mr. Powell understood that a modernized and well-funded State Department could help to avert military conflict.
He noted that Mr. Powell had insisted upon “a computer on every desk” at a time when the technology was not ubiquitous.
“He was a man of ideas, but he wasn’t ideological,” Mr. Blinken said. “He was constantly listening, learning, adapting.”
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
When Colin L. Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired from the military in 1993, he was among the most popular public figures in America and a coveted potential candidate for president who was eyed by strategists of both parties.
Mr. Powell ultimately registered as a Republican and spoke at the 1996 Republican National Convention, though he hardly adhered to G.O.P. orthodoxies. He spoke about how Republicans “must be the party of inclusion,” his own belief in “a woman’s right to choose” and his support of affirmative action.
Mr. Powell never ran for president, but he served in the next Republican administration, as secretary of state and national security adviser to President George W. Bush. And though Mr. Powell was long identified as a Republican and a conservative, the last Republican presidential candidate he backed was the one he worked for: Mr. Bush in 2004.
He endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, stunning party leaders when he said the election of Mr. Obama as the country’s first Black president would “electrify the world.” Then he endorsed him again in 2012. And in 2016, he endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald J. Trump; hacked emails showed him writing, “Trump is nuts.”
In 2020, he endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr.
This January, four days after the riot at the United States Capitol led by supporters of Mr. Trump seeking to stop the certification of the 2020 election, Mr. Powell said he was officially leaving the party.
“I can no longer call myself a fellow Republican,” he said in an interview on CNN. “I’m not a fellow of anything right now. I’m just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat throughout my entire career.”
Colin Powell Was Among World’s ‘Greatest Leaders,’ Austin Says
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin described Colin Powell as a “tremendous personal friend and mentor” following Mr. Powell’s death from Covid-19 complications.
The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed. Alma lost a great husband, and the family lost a tremendous father — and I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always made time for me, and I could always go to him with tough issues. He always had great, great counsel. We will certainly miss him. I feel as if I have a hole in my heart just just learning of this, just recently. First African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs. First, African American secretary of state, a man who was respected around the globe and who will be, quite frankly, it is not possible to replace a Colin Powell. We will miss him. Again, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family, and we’re deeply, deeply saddened to learn of this. Thank you.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin described Colin Powell as a “tremendous personal friend and mentor” following Mr. Powell’s death from Covid-19 complications.CreditCredit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
Politicians and public figures praised Colin L. Powell on Monday as a respected statesman who wasn’t afraid to admit his mistakes or change his allegiances.
“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement.
Mr. Powell, born in Harlem to Jamaican parents, served as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served with him in the George W. Bush administration, called Mr. Powell “a trailblazer and role model for so many.”
Stacey Abrams, a Democrat from Georgia and a voting rights activist, said on Twitter that Mr. Powell had “led with integrity, admitted fallibility and defended democracy.”
Former President Barack Obama said Mr. Powell had been “at the center of some of the most consequential events of our lifetime.”
“Although he’d be the first to acknowledge he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served,” Mr. Obama said.
A longtime Republican, Mr. Powell crossed party lines and endorsed Mr. Obama in 2008, a move that Mr. Obama remains deeply appreciative of, he said. He also praised Mr. Powell for breaking racial barriers and inspiring younger generations.
General Colin Powell understood what was best in this country, and tried to bring his own life, career, and public statements in line with that ideal. Michelle and I will always look to him as an example of what America—and Americans—can and should be. pic.twitter.com/vSxTbUE5aR
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 18, 2021
The Clintons also praised Mr. Powell as a “courageous soldier, a skilled commander, a dedicated diplomat, and a good and decent man.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin called Mr. Powell an extraordinary mentor.
“I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. He always made time for me, and I could always go to him for tough issues,” Mr. Austin, the first Black secretary of defense, said in an interview on C-SPAN. “I feel as if I have a hole in my heart.”
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said that the “nation lost a man of undaunted courage and a champion of character.”
Jim Maiella, a former congressional staff member, recalled a letter he wrote to Mr. Powell in 1995 expressing his disappointment at the four-star general’s decision not to run for president. Mr. Powell responded, saying it was “the most difficult decision I have ever made.”
“But I am sure it was the right one,” Mr. Powell wrote, in a letter that Mr. Maiella shared on Twitter. “I will find other ways to serve our beloved nation.”
Mr. Powell’s career was marred, however, by a speech he gave in 2003 at the United Nations, in which he made the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. After the invasion that year, it became clear that Iraq did not have the weapons of mass destruction that Mr. Powell had described, and that much of his argument had been based on faulty intelligence.
Senior United Nations officials expressed condolences over Mr. Powell’s death but avoided any references to the speech. In response to questions about it, which Mr. Powell himself called a stain on his legacy, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres, said: “I’m not going to relitigate what happened in the Security Council or what happened in Iraq. I think the U.N.’s position at the time was very clear. A man has died, and we’re extending our condolences to him and to his family.”
On Twitter, Al Sharpton, a former Democratic candidate for president and a strong opponent of the Iraq war, also paid tribute to Mr. Powell, saying, “Though we disagreed on many issues, I always respected him and was proud of his achievements.”
Mr. Powell remained a figure of accomplishment and inspiration to many around the world. Emily Haber, the German ambassador to Washington, called him “a friend of democracy” and of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Jamaal Bowman, a Democratic congressman from New York, wrote on Twitter: “As a Black man just trying to figure out the world, Colin Powell was an inspiration. He was from N.Y.C., went to City College, and rose to the highest ranks of our nation.”