Lecture Date: March 28, 2023
The Gemini 3 Group Lecture
For many years, opinion polls told us that Colin Powell was the most trusted and admired person in this country, greeted like a rock star as he traveled around the world. The son of immigrants, he rose to become the president’s national security adviser, the most senior officer in the U.S. military, and the Secretary of State. The first person of color to hold any of those jobs, he seemed the vanguard of the post-racial state America hoped to achieve. Yet Powell’s life could only have happened at a particular time in our history, to a particular kind of Black man–one whose formative experiences were far different from those of most African Americans; who rose through a U.S. military in the midst of cultural and structural changes that redounded in his favor; and whose abilities both to lead, and to navigate successfully through a sometimes hostile world made him singularly successful in a political system that was increasingly riven with nastiness and confrontation. Those navigation skills ultimately contributed to his downfall in office, as his belief in being a good soldier led him to become the public face of an invasion of Iraq launched on a lie.