The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) joins the nation in mourning the passing of Colin Powell, who served his country with great distinction as Secretary of State, U.S. National Security Advisor, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Colin Powell seen here at USIP speaking to the Fellows of the Halifax International Security Forum’s Peace With Women Fellowship, October 31, 2018. (USIP)
General Colin Powell seen here at USIP speaking to the Fellows of the Halifax International Security Forum’s Peace With Women Fellowship, October 31, 2018. (USIP)

“General Powell was the epitome of the warrior statesman, dedicating his enormous talents as both a soldier and a diplomat to advancing the interests and welfare of the American people,” said USIP Board Chair George Moose. “As the first Black man to hold the three most senior foreign policy positions in the U.S. Government, he was also a trailblazer and role model, and his example will continue to be a source of inspiration.”

Born in Harlem in 1937 to immigrant parents, Powell graduated from City College of New York and was commissioned through the Reserve Officers Training Program (ROTC) as a second lieutenant in the newly desegrated U.S. Army. Over the course of what would become a decorated 35-year military career, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general and advised multiple presidents, including as national security advisor to Ronald Reagan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush.

“I had the privilege to serve alongside Secretary Powell,” said USIP former Chair Stephen J. Hadley. “He was unforgettable — brave, smart and principled. General Powell was the best kind of American leader—the kind who makes this country great.”

In the many roles he played, General Powell helped lead America through some of the most significant foreign policy events of the 20th century, including the 1991 Gulf War. His approach became known as the “Powell Doctrine,” which helped reshape the U.S. military in the wake of the Cold War.

By the time he retired from the Army in 1993, Powell had become one of the most popular figures in the country — with some advocating that he run for president, a prospect he later declined. Powell returned to public service in 2001 to serve as George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, where he helped modernize the department’s infrastructure and galvanized and inspired its diplomatic corp.

“General Powell lead through dedication to service and determination to protect the United States,” said Judy Ansley, Vice Chair of USIP’s Board. “He will be remembered as one of the most respected and admired military leaders and statesmen of our time.”

Throughout his over four decades in public service, Powell never wavered in his love and dedication to his country. He remains one of only two people in U.S. history to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on multiple occasions, among numerous other military and civilian honors. But what gave him the greatest pleasure and satisfaction was his dedicated work to encourage and support promising young leaders from around the world.

“As a great statesman and general, General Powell knew the true, enduring value of peace and justice,” said Lise Grande, USIP’s President. “His life and service are an inspiration to everyone who seeks these.”

USIP offers our deepest condolences to his family and those whose lives’ he touched throughout his career.

Related News

In Memoriam: Peter Ackerman

In Memoriam: Peter Ackerman

Friday, April 29, 2022

News Type: Announcement

USIP mourns the passing of Peter Ackerman, a businessman, philanthropist and one of the world’s foremost experts on nonviolent action.

In Memoriam: Madeleine Albright

In Memoriam: Madeleine Albright

Thursday, March 24, 2022

News Type: Announcement

The U.S. Institute of Peace is deeply saddened by the loss of Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be appointed the U.S. Secretary of State. Her commitment to bipartisanship in promoting democracy, human rights and peace has been an inspiration to generations of leaders.

In Memoriam: Phyllis Oakley

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

News Type: Announcement

The U.S. Institute of Peace mourns the passing of Phyllis Oakley, a distinguished diplomat who advanced the role of American women in international diplomacy and served as an ex officio member of the Institute’s Board of Directors in the late 1990s as an assistant secretary of state.

USIP Announces 2021-2022 Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellows

Thursday, September 16, 2021

News Type: Announcement

The U.S. Institute of Peace is pleased to announce the 2021-22 cohort of Peace Scholar Fellows. This year 115 applicants from 88 U.S. universities applied for this prestigious award. The 18 award recipients demonstrated the greatest potential to advance the peacebuilding field and the strongest likelihood to inform policy and practice.

In Memoriam: John Warner

In Memoriam: John Warner

Thursday, May 27, 2021

News Type: Announcement

The U.S. Institute of Peace is deeply saddened by the loss of former Senator John Warner, a military veteran and leader renowned for his willingness to seek peace both globally and across the aisle. Warner served in World War II, the Korean War and went on to serve as undersecretary and secretary of the U.S. Navy before entering politics and becoming the second longest-serving U.S. senator in Virginia’s history.

View All News