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Colin Luther Powell who is a former general in the United States Army, is an American statesman born in 1937 in Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City. He was begotten to parents of Jamaican decent. He also has Scottish Decent. Married to Alma Johnson, they have a son, Michael Powell. He served as the 65th Secretary of state of the United States of America in the period of 2000-2005 under the regime of President George W. Bush. He was the first American with African roots to be appointed to that post.
After attending a public school in South Bronx, he graduated in 1954. He later went to City College of New York in and graduated in 1958 and attained the grade C. He later got Masters in Business Administration in the George Washington University. When in the Army he served as a National Security Advisor, commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Chiefs of Staff position he held during the Gulf War.
At the advent of his military career, he joined Reserve’s Officers’ Training Corps at the City College he admits was one of his best experiences in life. He felt he had discovered himself by joining the officers’ Training Corps. He graduated from the City College as an Army Second Lieutenant. This was the start of a 35 year old span of a glittering army career where he held several positions and rose to be the General. Under several mentors of his such as General Henry Emerson, he became one of the most celebrated personalities in the US history to have served in the Army. Besides this, he served at a white house fellowship, a highly esteemed position under President Richard Nixon between 1972 and 1973.
The glowing career of Powell was not easy at all, the fighter and hard worker he is always pulled him through; during the Vietnam War when he served as the Captain and also South Vietnamese army adviser between 1962 and 1963. During this war, he was wounded by stepping on a punji stick also known as bamboo. His walking was impaired due to the infection but was only for a short time. He was even decorated for bravery in Vietnam after single-handedly rescuing several men from a burning helicopter. He was mandated to investigate a detailed letter by Tom Glen a soldier, which somewhat had evidence to the allegations of the My Lai Massacre.
In the 1980s, he served in the several places in the military that included Fort Carson, Colorado, assistant secretary of defense, commander of the V Corps in Frankfurt, Germany. He later became the National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan at the age of 49. Promotion was never too far for him as he was made General and short-lived stint as Commander in Chief, Forces Command (Spencer 1984). Later in 1989, President George W Bush, Senior appointed him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was the youngest man to have served in the capacity.
He concedes, in his autobiography, My American Journey that he is still haunted by his experiences during the Vietnam War and faulted the leadership in charge of the operations. He is also known for being critical of the US foreign policy in the past for instance, the support of the Chilean Coup d’etat in 1973. He has also advocated for an approach to military disagreements that minimizes casualties but maximizes success (Steve, 1993) This involves use of overwhelming force, a component dubbed ‘Powell Doctrine’.
Powell in Politics
Powell’s experience in the military earned him a great deal of popularity not just among the American citizens but also both political divides. Democrats loved him for his moderate takes on military issues; on the other hand, Republicans viewed him as a valuable asset due to the past achievements of the republican administrations (Henry, 1992). He was recommended for the Democratic Vice presidential Candidate in 1992 but he eventually declared his support for the Republican Party and was even expected to be President Bill Clinton in 1996 Election (Wapner, 1996). He declined as he said he was not interested in politics.
Due to his passion for the country’s welfare, he formed in 1997, America’s Promise with an aim of aiding children from all sectors socio-economically. His little indulgence in politics continued since in 2000 US election, Powell supported and campaigned for the Republican Senator John McCain and George W. Bush after Bush won the Republican nomination. With Powell’s help, Bush won the election and was rewarded by being appointed the Secretary of State. In his capacity as the secretary of state, he was considered moderate. His seemingly less active indulgence in the his work especially considering that he travelled less than any other US secretary of State, his job became vital especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 because the job of managing the relationship between US and other countries rested squarely on his shoulders.
The subsequent invasion of Iraq by the United States was partly the responsibility of Powell and was criticized for that. Considering that in the previous regime he opposed to the ouster of President Saddam Hussein, he finally gave in to the Bush’s determination to remove Hussein from power. He was instrumental in convincing president Bush to take the issue of Iraq invasion before the United Nations as opposed to how Bush wanted to carry it out, alone. The success of this delicate matter rested solely on Powell. With his often acknowledged oratory skills, he had to persuade other nations to take part in the invasion that was targeting alleged biological weapons in Iraq. He became under fire for supporting the invasion from critics who all along had viewed him as a good, spotless person who would have not gotten involved in the Iraq issue. Perhaps joining politics was not after all a good idea.
Iraq invasion now a gone case, one more vital matter was on the table; rebuilding Iraq and seeking help from the international community in this. Powell once again was at the forefront. He tendered his resignation in 2004 but announced that he would quit at the end of Bush’s first term of presidency, he was therefore replaced by Condoleezza Rice (Harvey 2004) .He turned a few heads while leaving office due to the influence and the support he had in politics and even before that in his military career.
The After Life.
After an eventful service as the chief US diplomat, he receded back to private life arguably for some peace. During President Bush’s first term, he disagreed with John R. Bolton. He therefore expressed unwillingness to support Bolton’s appointment as ambassador to the United Nation in 2005. This was thought to have dealt huge blow to Bolton’s confirmation as the ambassador by the Senate. There were even rumors that Bolton at one point while working together with Powell under Bush, was spying on him (Powell).
In the aftermath of the ravaging disaster of hurricane Katrina, Powell criticized the US government management citing improper help and protection. He also became inspirational speaker in series of events where he used the platform to point out issues in Bush’s error ridden administration. As much as he was a diligent servant of Bush, he reportedly was unhappy with some of the issues and decisions the administration made especially regarding US foreign policy. He is currently serving as a member of Board of Directors of Revolution Health, a Company and also Council on Foreign Relations. A great mentor to the youth he has been and still is. His encouragement goes a long way in molding the youths in United States, not mentioning his exemplary career especially in military.
He is by his life and actions, a moderate politician with moderate views on many issues. Though a republican, he had a soft spot for liberal or centrist on certain issues. He advocates for personal choice in the abortion debate, affirmative action that promotes equality on opportunities and decisions, gun control in the US due to the number of cases regarding misuse of guns. An ardent crusader against President Bush’s military interventions in perceived terror cases, he let out clearly his views and warned that the government may be losing the moral support of the war.
In the run up to the 2008 presidential election, he supported fully John McCain and even donated monetarily. He was considered also a probably running mate for McCain. He was later to change and endorse Obama, a move that rocked the Republican camp. He said in his endorsement that Obama was a transformative figure, who could reach out to everyone in America.
While in the army, he had to undergo segregation as this was still very ripe in the country. He even suspected that people did not want him in the army because he was black though, thanks to the orders of the army, soldiers were not allowed to openly show racism. Racism is one think he sternly condemned as he said, was a setback to a just and truly free United States. A Boy Scout while in school that also played different kind of games, though not competitively; he did not see himself accomplishing all that he has achieved. He found himself in the college when he ventured into Cadet Corps. He realized he could really make it in the army and never looked back since.
In his illustrious career, both in the army and in politics, Powell received numerous awards for his efforts in transforming United States. These awards were not restricted to one administration as his leadership was acknowledged by many regimes that is; President George Bush Senior in 1991 who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He went on to receive another Presidential Medal of freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1993. He was even honored by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom by the Order of the Bath Award.
His help to Africa did not go unnoticed as he was awarded the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award. Considering that when he was growing up there was no program on Black history in schools, he overcame all the obstacles to achieve what back in the days seemed impossible for a black man. He had to show and solidarity with the African continent by providing support. His influence all over the world cannot be denied since even a street was named after him in Gelnhausen Germany.
A cool man he was, he stated in the interview by Sunday morning talk show that he regretted letting down Senator John McCain by endorsing Obama in the run-up to 2008 Presidential Election. He cited that the Republican campaign in the elections was not all inclusive as they were falsely bedeviling Obama the Democratic Candidate as a Muslim. Islam was not illegal in America thus having the notion that Muslims were inferior to Christians in America was totally wrong.
A truly transformative leader of Powell’s caliber was a rarity in his time and even presently. That is why he remains a gem of America’s history, a figure that all Americans should and I’m sure are proud of. Exemplary service to the country in the military and later on a principled and moral leader sums all up in a glittering life is celebrated world over.
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