Since he died Monday, Colin Powell has received plaudits for his military and civilian service. A former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff and Secretary of State, he mastered the art of serving his nation in an honorable and selfless manner.
He was an extraordinary soldier and leader and a superb statesman. Though respectful, he was forthright when explaining to his civilian bosses the appropriate use of the armed forces: engage them when the objectives are clear, political will is unshakeable and maximum force is used to win convincingly.
General Powell had learned valuable lessons from the Viet Nam Conflict. He understood that wars are political. He painfully knew that American troops face the greatest prospect not only of defeating the foe, but surviving when supported by the public and superior firepower.
The only blemish on Powell’s record was his eloquent but misguided defense of the Iraqi War before the United Nations. Based upon information provided him and promoted by President George W. Bush, he supported the premise of the need to go to war to destroy weapons of mass destruction.
Except there were none. His reputation took a grievous blow.
When he retired. Powell established a non-profit, America’s Promise Alliance, to help young people succeed and flourish. The following, written by Peter Gallagher, a Shore resident, captures another side of General Powell.
“General Powell was founding Chair of America’s Promise the Alliance for Youth and I was the CEO…we worked together every day for almost 5 years.
He had 13 Rules that guided his approach to leadership. I won’t list all 13 but I’ll paraphrase 4 that I witnessed virtually every day:
-perpetual optimism is a force
It was that simple… he cared for people, he empowered them and he gave them credit.
Oh, and he was fun and had a great sense of humor. I can’t remember having an interaction with him that didn’t leave me chuckling, even when I had screwed up.
That was General Powell, a proud, dignified patriot. He loved his family, his Country and his troops, and all 3 loved him.”
Colin Powell was a national treasure. His country and family grieve his death.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.