President Joe Biden praised retired Gen. Colin Powell as a close friend and as a national leader during his storied military career, joining others who have served in the White House in remembering him after his death Monday at age 84 of COVID-19 complications.
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all,” Biden said in a White House statement released Monday. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. 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.”
He announced that flags would be flown at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings in Powell’s honor.
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President Barack Obama joined Biden in remembering Powell’s contributions and legacy during his career.
“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 in a statement.
Powell, a four-star military general, was known best for his leadership in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm when the U.S. military invaded Kuwait to liberate it from Iraqi forces and for his role as U.S. Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration. After learning of his passing, Bush also remembered Powell’s service and dedication to his country.
“Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,” Bush wrote in a statement. “He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a friend and a family man.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who succeeded Powell when he left the position in 2003, said he was a “trusted colleague and dear friend through some very challenging times. His devotion to our nation was not limited to the many great things he did while in uniform or during his time spent in Washington.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was among the first Monday morning to speak on the loss, noting that it was “not possible” to replace him.
“The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed. [His wife] Alma lost a great husband, and the family lost a tremendous father. And I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor,” Austin said.