Blinken pays tribute to Colin Powell

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered remarks on Colin Powell’s life and tenure at the State Department after his death from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 84. Powell, who was the first African American to serve as secretary of state, was also reportedly battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that suppresses the immune system.

Video Transcript

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: After that career, Colin Powell could have enjoyed a quieter life. Maybe dedicating himself full time to the organization he founded, America's Promise, to help young people from underrepresented communities, like the one where he grew up.

Instead, he started a new career in diplomacy. And I believe Secretary Powell's years as a soldier are what made him such an exceptional diplomat. He knew that war and military action should always be a last resort. And to make that so, we need our diplomacy to be as robust and well-resourced as possible.

He called for increased funding for state, which then, as now, was just a fraction of the Pentagon's budget. He modernized the State Department, putting a computer on every desk. And he believed deeply that America was an exceptional nation, that we could and should lead with confidence and humility, and that the world was safer when the United States was engaged, and its allies and partners were united.

Future military leaders and diplomats will study Colin Powell's work. Like the Powell Doctrine, that hammered out criteria for when and how the United States should use force. And his support for expeditionary diplomacy, diplomats and military working together to bring stability to high threat environments.

He was a man of ideas, but he wasn't ideological. He was constantly listening, learning, adapting. He could admit mistakes, it was just another example of his integrity. As is probably evident by now, I was a huge admirer of Secretary Powell's, I always will be. And he was very generous with me.

This past Fourth of July, we spent a few precious hours together, talking about the State Department, discussing all the challenges we're confronting around the world. Two things were clear, Secretary Powell's depth of knowledge about world events was unmatched. And he loved the State Department, and wanted it to thrive.

So today is a sad day for us here at State, especially for all those who worked for and with Secretary Powell, and will never forget the experience. Our thoughts are with Alma Powell and the entire family today, to everyone who loved him.

Colin Powell dedicated his extraordinary life to public service, because he never stopped believing in America. And we believe in America, in no small part, because it helped produce someone like Colin Powell. Thank you, Mr Secretary.