Yesterday I awoke to a short text message from a friend that read, “Colin Powell!!”. During a late brunch just days earlier the same friend had inquired about who I drew inspiration from and whose life work guided my own work and passions. Without hesitation, I said Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose philosophy on the necessity of service — regardless of resources — has been a guiding principle in my life. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Next was President Barack Obama whose example of character, fatherhood, husband, and discipline I lean on as examples to reach for. Following was General Ulysses S. Grant whose steadfastness and dogged-determination is a reminder to always stay the course — especially while met with great adversity. As my list continued, in-between Lincoln and King was General Colin Powell, an advisor to four US Presidents, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a soldier in the United States Army for 35 years.
So, while on vacation in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday when I first read the text I didn’t immediately grasp the magnitude of what he was relaying to me. I sat my phone down and went back to sleep attempting to savor as many more hours under the Southern sun as possible before flying back to Chicago later that day. Unbeknownst to me we had just lost one of our country’s greatest Patriots and to the rest of the world a loyal friend.
The greatest winds from the greatest oceans couldn’t bring us another Colin Powell
In memory of a man who often stood larger than life, it’s not lost on me that even the General err’d on occasion and he’d be the first to admit those shortcomings himself, as he always did when the opportunity presented itself. While most are familiar with the Powell Doctrine — a brilliant foreign policy approach to how we govern the use of force aboard; and his 13 rules to live by — here’s another that may be overlooked: when learned that you’ve made a mistake, do all you can to right that wrong. For those of us who will have children one day this lesson may take priority.
General Powell, a Black man — a Patriot whose character, work ethic, and fortitude exemplifies our American story — held high standards and exceeded them. When in 1992 asked by students during a speaking engagement at their school…