Colin Powell, the soldier-turned-statesman who became the first Black U.S. secretary of state, national security advisor and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died this week.
“Colin Powell was, first of all, an example of a successful Black man, a child of immigrants in the United States who made good. This made him a role model for so many other Black [people],” says Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought (emerita). She is the former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and former assistant secretary for education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, whose time in Washington overlapped with Powell’s.
“He was also likeable, an affable, calm-on-the-surface Black man, who no matter what slights he endured, managed to appear non-threatening. His persona inspired the confidence of powerful white people who gave him increasing positions of responsibility.”
In looking at Powell’s legacy on policy, strategy and the military, Penn Today also reached out to Alice Hunt Friend, a Perry World House Visiting Fellow who has served in several roles at the Pentagon, to share her thoughts in a Q & A. Most recently, Friend was the deputy chief of staff to the deputy secretary of defense. Friend researches the role of civilians in civil-military relations and emerging military capabilities.