Colin Powell’s Howard University commencement speech shared after his death: ‘Never lose faith in America’

‘We must not allow the family to be broken into warring factions’, warned former Defence official

John Bowden
Monday 18 October 2021 16:31
<p>Former Secretary of State Colin Powell in the US Capitol</p>

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell in the US Capitol

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Former Secretary of State and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell’s words from a 1994 commencement address were shared widely on Twitter as well as on cable news on Monday after news broke that he had died from Covid-19.

As news broke of the former defence chief’s death, journalists including MSNBC’s Michael Del Moro and Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin, who covers the Pentagon, shared Mr Powell’s words from a 1994 speech to graduates at the nation’s oldest historically Black university, where Mr Powell delivered a prescient warning about growing divisiveness and factionalism in America.

“America is a family. There may be differences and disputes in the family, but we must not allow the family to be broken into warring factions,” he told graduates that day.

His words were shared by mourners on Twitter as well as by MSNBC’s Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski, who read the passage live during Monday’s broadcast of the MSNBC morning show.

Mr Powell made history during the administration of President George W. Bush by becoming the first Black secretary of State in the nation’s history; he faced criticism during his tenure, however, for his defences of the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq. In 2003, he famously made the case to the United Nations that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, which was later proven to be false.

He addressed that issue two years later, becoming one of the few Bush administration officials to publicly recant their role in starting the war.

“It's a blot ... and will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now,” he told ABC News at the time.

Mr Powell, who was 84, had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 but was immunocompromised due to a battle with cancer. His family confirmed his death early on Monday morning, calling him a “remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American”.

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