Colin Powell (1937-2021): an ally for Bermuda
The former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell enjoyed a friendly relationship with Bermuda and its former premier Sir John Swan in particular.
Worldwide, the soldier and diplomat was perhaps best known for his prominent role in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But for Bermudians, Mr Powell was a familiar participant on meetings with Sir John in the 1980s and 1990s on talks varying from building Bermuda’s financial and business model to maintaining the presence of US bases on the island.
Mr Powell batted for Bermuda in the seminal US-Bermuda Tax Treaty, passed under the Reagan administration over fears that it could damage US interests.
Cole Simons, the Opposition leader, said this afternoon: “I am saddened to hear of the passing of another great man in history, General Colin L Powell.
“General Powell wasn’t only an American statesman, but man whose voice resonated around the globe. He was a champion for democracy and humanity and an inspiration to both men and women in the Caribbean diaspora.
“A man who displayed calm resolve in everything he did, General Powell earned the respect of many through his principles, determination, resilience and his respect for humanity.
“His life journey has shown us that in order to be successful, it does not matter where you come from but more so what trajectory you choose for your life despite challenges which may arise.
“The One Bermuda Alliance extends its sincerest condolences to the family of General Powell, especially his wife Alma and his children, during this difficult time. Bermuda has truly lost a friend to the island.”
Sir John and his Cabinet Secretary, Kenneth Richardson, often called on Washington in the 1980s to get the treaty passed, and forged a personal bond with Mr Powell, then National Security Adviser, who helped when the treaty stalled for ratification in the US Senate.
Mr Powell paid casual visits as well, such as a stop in September 2000 as a guest of Sir John in which he delivered a speech to local business leaders on mentoring young people.
The talk reflected Mr Powell’s commitment as the founding chairman in 1997 of the mentoring programme America’s Promise: The Alliance for Youth.
“He is a unique man,” Sir John told The Royal Gazette in 1995, when Mr Powell was tipped as a presidential contender.
“He is focused, sensitive, with a can-do attitude, and always looks at the bigger picture.
“He is respected for his integrity and is an all-embracing individual with an engaging and very warm presence.
“He motivates people from all walks of life and reaches across the whole spectrum of humankind. He is a man for our time.”
In May of that year, Mr Powell addressed a banquet at what was then the Southampton Princess Hotel, in a fundraiser for the Bermuda National Education Council.
The retired general spoke on the challenges of a post-Soviet world and directly addressed Bermudian students in the audience, telling them education marked “the last time perhaps in your life that you will get anything so valuable for nothing”.
Other links to Bermuda were light-hearted: a portrait of Mr Powell by Bermudian artist the late Diana Tetlow hung in the living room of his family home in Virginia at the request of his wife, Alma.
Mr Powell died of complications from Covid-19.
• Colin Luther Powell, a former United States Secretary of State, was born on April 5, 1937. He died on October 18, 2021, aged 84.