Colin Powell’s visits to Oklahoma showcased community service and leadership


Colin Powell, America’s first black secretary of state, died of complications from COVID-19 on Monday, his family said. He was 84 years old.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and great American,” the Powell family said in a statement.

Son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell fought in Vietnam and rose through the military ranks, becoming the first black national security adviser during Ronald Reagan’s second term and the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by George HW Bush. After leading the United States and its allies in Operation Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War, Powell became so popular in the 1990s that he was presented as a potential presidential candidate.

Powell, a four-star general who served as secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, has set foot in Oklahoma four times in the past two decades. Each visit he highlighted how community service has shaped his career.

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2000 rally for the big OU event

In 2000, Powell traveled to the University of Oklahoma to give a keynote address for the student volunteer initiative, The Big Event. Powell had been the founding president of America’s Promise, an alliance of nonprofits and organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people, since 1997.

“I was an at-risk black kid in Harlem’s worst neighborhood,” Powell said at the time. “I should have taken the wrong path, but I didn’t. My community took care of me.”

Prior to delivering his speech at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Powell was greeted with a standing ovation from college students, state lawmakers, and nearly 1,000 high school and college students.

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Powell said at the time that after serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he felt too old to join the military, so he decided to focus on youth coaching programs.

The following year, Bush appointed Powell to his cabinet, confirming him as the 65th Secretary of State and the first African American in that post. His role in building support for the Iraq war, and in particular his misinformation to the United Nations regarding alleged weapons of mass destruction, has complicated his public image. Powell’s time in the Bush administration ended with his resignation.

2006 visit for the Oklahoma Historical Society

In 2006, Powell spoke at the Oklahoma History Center to a group at the University of Oklahoma City.

Powell had gone into private life and joined California-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, where he would remain a partner until his death.

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell visits students at the University of Oklahoma in 2007. In the background is then OU President David Boren.

2007 OU visit for ‘Challenges Facing America’

Powell returned to the state in 2007 to visit the OU again, this time to talk about the challenges America faces.

“Part of your payment for what you get has to go from the bottom up and help others who are less fortunate than you and who may never be able to make it to an establishment like this, an institution like this. – here, unless you help them get them, ”he told the students.

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2018 visit for OKC Refresh Leadership

Powell’s last visit to Oklahoma was in 2018, during a leadership values ​​speech hosted by Express Employment Professionals in Oklahoma City.

As a keynote speaker, General Powell addressed the audience drawing on his experience as a leader on the world stage, exemplifying what he believed to be the pillars necessary to be an effective leader, by especially in times of great change and juggling difficult crises, ”said Sheena Hollander, public relations manager for Express Employment Professionals.

Broadcast live from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the event brought together hundreds of people and reached more than 7,000 attendees at 215 locations in the United States and Canada, according to the recruiting company.

Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Johnson, whom he married in 1962, and three children.

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