Colin Powell leaves behind a lasting legacy


Paul Moon, Managing Editor

The story of Colin Powell, who passed away on Oct.18, is of a man born in an immigrant household rising through the ranks of the military and eventually becoming the first African American Secretary of State in the history of the United States.


“Colin Powell’s struggles through discrimination and the limitations put against him by the system is inspirational because his success story is extremely unique and rare,” Jinmin Lee (9), a fan of Colin Powell, said. “The fact that he was able to achieve so much despite the obstacles against him is a testament to how hard work can pay off.”


During his military career, Colin Powell rose to the rank of a four-star general in the US military, a designation held by only 247 other people in history. However, the start of his career was filled with discrimination and obstacles resulting from Jim Crow laws.


Despite the challenges, Colin Powell was able to rise to prominence as his military successes and stories of his heroism increased his popularity among the US public. His military talent was recognized by the US government in 1987, as he was appointed as the first black National Security Advisor by President Ronald Reagan.


“Colin Powell really built on his military legacy to become the US’s top foreign diplomat, and I think that this is evidence for his many accomplishments,” James Tyvand, US history teacher, said. “In addition to that, he exuded confidence in important moments, such as when he was trying to bring foreign support for Desert Storm. He was the right man for that job.


Aside from his dynamic range of accomplishments, Colin Powell also had his lesser moments, the most costly of which was his UN testimony in favor of the Iraq War. His UN testimony was an influential factor in catalyzing the start of the Iraq War, and it included many pieces of CIA statistics and military analysis that were proved untrue. His problematic testimony contributed to countless deaths and years of violence.


“Colin Powell’s significance was that he convinced the international community about the justification of the Iraq War at the general assembly,” Peter Kim (11), a junior who has followed the career of Colin Powell, said. “His involvement in the Iraq War is really complicated and controversial. In my opinion, although Iraq itself turned out better, the Iraq War itself was not justified at all.”


However, in the following years, Colin Powell has expressed regret over his actions, and he has spread caution about how others should not repeat his actions, which has helped many understand the damage of the Iraq War. Two years after the aforementioned UN testimony, he revealed that the UN testimony was a painful memory, as it was a blot on his record. 


“I think his participation in the Iraq War as part of the Bush administration was controversial and led to a lot of conflicts, but I do think that the good that he has done before and after that mishap outweighs his mistakes,” Brandon Choi (10), a student studying politics in Academic Quiz Team, said. “He also had a lot of positive effects in representing the black community and increasing their influence in politics, and we should not be solely focusing on his mistakes, but more so on his accomplishments.”


As Brandon mentioned, Colin Powell’s identity is not simply characterized by his titles and actions throughout his career. but more so a story of inspiration as he demonstrated perseverance through hardships in a challenging environment. 


Colin Powell advanced African American participation in politics, not only through becoming the first black Secretary of state but also by endorsing black politicians running for office. For example, during Barack Obama’s campaign for president in 2008, he publicly supported his run for office, which resolved many doubts about Obama’s future in politics.


“Of course there were unfortunate moments, the Iraq war included, but overall, his career leaves a positive legacy,” Alexander Weir, HS math teacher, said. “I think that Colin Powell’s story can inspire SIS students to dare to dream, as nobody knows what they are truly capable of. Like Powell, you have to aim high and see where it takes you.”