Son gives emotional tribute to Colin Powell at service

Former Secretary of State Colin PowellColin PowellHow American progressives normalize anti-Semitism Juan Williams: The GOP is an anti-America party Defense & National Security — Biden marks Veterans Day MORE was eulogized as a friend, mentor and public servant of the highest order at a funeral on Friday at the Washington National Cathedral attended by President BidenJoe BidenBiden says he didn't 'overpromise' Finland PM pledges 'extremely tough' sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine Russia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable MORE and former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.

In one of the service's most affecting moments, Powell's son, Michael Powell, called his father’s resume “too formidable for mere mortals” and described him as “a great lion with a big heart.” 

Colin Powell died last month at the age of 84. He was the first Black American to serve as secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


“My father made a monumental difference,” he said, getting emotional at multiple moments while recalling his father's legacy and strong sense of character.

In a moving plea to the country, Michael Powell asked Americans to honor his father’s legacy by striving to be more like him. 

“To honor his legacy, I hope we do more than consign him to the history books. I hope we recommit ourselves to being a nation where we are still making his kind,” he said.

He said his father felt that “bringing shame to the family” was a cardinal sin and he would say not to forget where you came from. Colin Powell was born in New York City and raised by Jamaican immigrant parents in the South Bronx.

Colin Powell's interest in others and his love of meeting and learning about new people were themes throughout the funeral.

Michael Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told a story about his father getting a flat tire while driving on the Washington Beltway. A young, disabled veteran pulled over to help him.


While the veteran asked for a selfie, Colin Powell asked him about his life, including his family and friends, and invited him and his entire family over for dinner.

“Colin Powell was a great leader because he was a great follower. He knew you could not ask your troops to do anything you were unwilling to do yourself,” he said. 

Biden paid his respects to Colin Powell’s wife, Alma Powell, with an embrace and kiss, while wearing a face mask, at the conclusion of the service.

Alma Powell was also greeted after the funeral with hugs, kisses and handshakes from first lady Jill BidenJill BidenHarris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to 'do its job' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE, Obama, former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama: 'Treat fear as a challenge' Barack Obama wishes a happy 58th birthday to 'best friend' Michelle The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE, Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and former secretary of State and first lady Hilary Clinton, who attended without her husband, former President Clinton.

Alma Powell, who was in a wheelchair, was escorted out of the cathedral by members of the military and waved and looked out to the many people who attended to pay respects to her late husband.

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenRussia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable US providing Ukraine with additional 0M in military aid amid tensions with Russia Blinken: Russian attack on Ukraine could be launched with 'very short notice' MORE, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — White House raises new alarm over Russia GOP lawmakers press administration on US weapons left behind in Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation MORE and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Milley tests positive for COVID-19 MORE were also present.

The great respect fellow dignitaries and presidents felt toward Powell was evident at the cathedral on Friday.

His long career working for multiple administrations was touted by another past secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. She referred to herself and Colin Powell as “the closest of friends.”

She said Colin Powell was the “ultimate team-player” and was always true to himself.

“He could not be moved by any threat or attempting promise to depart from what he felt was right. He had a code instilled by his immigrant parents, honed by army tradition, and nurtured by more than half a century of marriage. He was also guided by a conscience that, unlike many, never slipped,” she said.

Albright said Colin Powell's legacy of serving the U.S. will long survive his passing.

Garnering laughs from the audience to break the solemn mood, Albright said of Colin Powell, “the Army loved him,” “his adversaries respected him” and he was “far more popular than his predecessor” at the State Department.


She painted a picture of the two, both now giants in the legacy of the State Department, as they were in 1993. She recalled that Colin Powell, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would come to White House meetings with a laser pointer and a lot of medals, while she, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, would bring a yellow pad and a pin to meetings. 

His love of public service was outlined by his former deputy, Richard Armitage, who opened his remarks by describing how their 40-year friendship had started because they were both “disgruntled multitour combat vets” of the Vietnam War. 

They were both “not happy with the way that we conducted the war and certainly not happy with the way we left, and delighted to be part of a new administration, which was coming in to develop not only the weapons systems we needed but redevelop the moral that our nation needed so much, so that was a natural bonding thing,” Armitage recalled.

After the war, Colin Powell served as a White House fellow to former President Nixon, and then was national security adviser for former President Reagan.

Armitage spoke of his friend's humanity, recalling that Colin Powell would say, “we all need to treat everyone with a little bit more kindness than we think they deserve, because we don’t know what’s going on in their lives.”

Before the start of the funeral, the U.S. Army Brass quintet played upbeat tunes, including “Dancing Queen,” from the Swedish 1970s band ABBA. The former secretary of State was known by his friends and colleagues as a huge ABBA fan.

Armitage shared a memory of Colin Powell singing ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” to the then-foreign minister of Sweden, who had just gifted him the band's CD set.

The U.S. Army Brass quintet also played Bob Marley's “Three Little Birds” before the funeral, lending an upbeat and cheerful tone to the otherwise somber passing of an American giant.