Condoleezza Rice: Colin Powell’s greatest legacy is in the people he inspired

Condoleezza Rice, director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009.

“General Powell would like to invite you to lunch.” The call from his secretary was a thunderbolt: Colin was the national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan. I was a 31-year-old Council on Foreign Relations fellow serving a year with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mostly what I remember about that lunch is how my initial nervousness dissolved into a certain level of comfort with the tall, elegant and already famous Colin L. Powell. He was inspiring but not intimidating. “I’m sure we’ll see each other many times in the future,” he said. He was, of course, right. Our professional and personal lives crossed and intertwined numerous times — and I am grateful for that.

Tributes to Colin will rightly cite his impact as a statesman and a soldier. They will note that he changed how we think about the use of military force. The Powell Doctrine holds that if you use military force, use it overwhelmingly to get the job done.

Some will cite his role in controversial decisions concerning the Balkans or, most certainly, Iraq. No one spends so many decades in public life — confronted with difficult and consequential choices — without criticism.

But tributes must acknowledge his tireless work as the country’s chief diplomat: strengthening relations with allies at difficult times; ending the civil war in Sudan; and leaving the State Department stronger and more efficient than when he arrived.

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Source: Washington Post