November 27, 2021

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At Colin Powell’s Funeral, Washington Is Pulled Together – The New York Times

2 min read

They argued and argued, and the argument delayed the American intervention in Bosnia.

But over time they also became the close friends, which became critical after the disputed 2000 election. When Mr. Powell was named her successor, she said, he drove over to her house in Georgetown, walked in the door and together they began planning a succession — something that did not happen twenty years later, when, paralyzed by President Donald J. Trump’s refusal to admit his defeat, the Trump administration resisted a cooperative handover of power. (Mr. Trump, who denounced Mr. Powell a day after he died, was not present at the ceremony, and not mentioned.)

“He made pragmatism charismatic,” Ms. Albright said of Mr. Powell.

Throughout the ceremony, there were many such stories from a seemingly lost Washington, as participants told the story of how a son of Jamaican parents grew up in the Bronx, had his life given meaning in the Army, and rose through the ranks serving presidents of both parties. It was what his son, Michael K. Powell, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, called a true “American journey,’’ a phrase drawn from the title of Mr. Powell’s autobiography.

Even the scene of the funeral itself seemed a rare celebration of a figure whose party affiliations seemed far less interesting, and less concrete, than his approach to war, diplomacy and problem-solving. The National Cathedral is traditionally the site of presidential funerals — Ronald Reagan’s was held there, along with George H.W. Bush’s — but only rarely for other notable figures, including Senator John McCain, who died in 2018.

Mr. Powell’s ability to lead — whether he was in charge of troops or the diplomatic corps — was recalled by Richard Armitage, who served alongside him in Vietnam, became his closest friend and his deputy secretary of state. “One day I asked General Powell what is the secret of leadership,” Mr. Armitage recalled.

“You see some people, they look great,” he recalled Mr. Powell saying, with their impressive uniforms. “But the fact of the matter is that they can’t lead a horse to water.”

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