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Former President Barack Obama called Colin Powell an “exemplary patriot” in a lengthy statement shared on social media following the death of the former general on Monday.
Powell — America’s first Black national security adviser, first Black Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, and first Black Secretary of State — died Monday morning of coronavirus complications, theGRIO reported.
Obama said he and wife Michelle Obama will always look to Powell as “an example of what America – and Americans – can and should be if we wish to remain the last, best hope of earth.”
“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,” Obama said.
Powell’s family shared a statement to his verified Facebook page on Monday morning that reads: “General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated.”
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American.” The message is signed “The Powell Family.”
Powell had multiple myeloma, according to NBC News. It is a type of blood cancer that hurts the body’s ability to fight infections. In 2003, The New York Times reported that then-Secretary of State Powell had surgery to treat prostate cancer, which was detected in its early stages.
President Joe Biden has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other federal government buildings in honor of Powell’s life.
In a statement, Biden described Powell as “a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity”.
Biden added, “Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business – something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was vice president. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.”
Biden said Powell “embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat” and he was “committed to our nation’s strength and security above all.”
“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,” the president said.
Obama said Powell “helped a generation of young people set their sights higher.”
“He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow,” Obama added.
Powell was a retired four-star general, politician, and diplomat who began his career in the United States Army in 1958. He served in the Vietnam War as an adviser from 1962 to 1963 and returned to the region five years later as a major. After the war, Powell was a White House Fellow under President Richard Nixon, beginning his long tenure as a valued adviser to several Republican presidents.
He also served as national security advisor under President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989. Powell was then elevated to four-star general under President George H.W. Bush in 1989, and later that same year, Bush selected him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After his political service, Powell was a regular public speaker, an author, and served on the board of directors of Revolution Health and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Powell leaves to mourn his memory his wife Alma, son Michael, and two daughters Linda and Annemarie.
This article contains additional reporting from theGRIO’s Biba Adams.
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