Colin Powell dies

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:32 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021
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4:35 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Biden discusses friendship with Colin Powell in first on-camera remarks since his death

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Joe Biden speaks during a White House event on Monday.
President Joe Biden speaks during a White House event on Monday. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden made his first on-camera comments about the death of Colin Powell, calling him a dear friend and a patriot, as well as a strong proponent of education, during an event at the White House Monday honoring the 2020 and 2021 National Teacher of the Year.

“I became friends, and Jill as well, but I became friends with Colin Powell, who we just lost. Think of where Colin Powell, he’s not only a dear friend and a patriot, one of our great military leaders and a man of overwhelming decency. But this is a guy born the son of immigrants in New York City, raised in Harlem in the South Bronx. A graduate from the City College of New York, and he rose to the highest ranks not only in the military, but also in areas of foreign policy and statecraft,” Biden said.

“This is a guy who we talk about who had teachers who looked at this African American kid and said you can do anything,” Biden added. 

The President previously released a statement on Powell’s death and ordered the flags flying over the White House and all federal buildings to half-staff until sunset on Friday to honor the life and legacy of Powell. 

4:05 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

At one of his last public events, Powell grew emotional when talking about why he started college program

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Alex Marquardt

In one of his last public appearances on Sept. 30, former Secretary of State Colin Powell grew emotional when talking about why he decided to help start the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York, his alma mater.

In a virtual event by the school, Powell described why he felt motivated to be more involved in the school after meeting with City College of New York students. The video was posted Sept. 30. 

“I looked at them, and they were me, and they came from an immigrant background like me, and they came from some borough in the Bronx, and they were smiling, and they were happy,” Powell said.

The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership is a nonpartisan research center that is a part of the City College of New York. The school is a “home to the social science departments” at the college as well as “core leadership development and public service programs,” according to their website. 

Powell attended City College of New York as an undergraduate and graduated in 1958. The school was established in 2013, according to their website.

Originally, a donor had created a Colin Powell Institute to be a part of the college, and Powell was invited to talk to some of the students at the college in connection with the institute. But after meeting the students, he felt compelled to do more, he said, which gave him the motivation to start the school. 

“I went up to see what this was, and the Colin Powell institute, and it’s a think tank, okay I’m not crazy about think tanks but this guy is paying for it, and kids are getting it,” he said. 

Powell asked the students to tell him about themselves.

“I sat down at the head of the President’s table, in his conference room, and I said to the kids tell me who you are and where you all came from,” he said. “I said each of them tell me where you’re from, where your parents are from and what’s your future. Each one of them, there were twelve I think, each one of them did that…” Powell said, and grew emotional when discussing what they said to him about their future plans.

“Every one … I was just as emotional then as I am now. And I tried, I was a better guy at handling it then than I am now, but I said my God, this is me, that’s when I decided I had to do more than just show up every now and again,” he said.

This is when Powell worked with the then-President of the college to continue with the Institute and eventually, a year or two later, to start the Colin Powell school, he said.

“It wasn’t an American dream, it was an American journey, they were all on an American journey, and I think of that crowd of however many they were, I expect all of them graduated,” he added.

 Watch the conversation:

3:02 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Colin Powell's death shows vaccinating everyone is important to protect cancer patients, doctors say

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard and Maggie Fox

Colin Powell’s death from Covid-19 complications demonstrates the importance of vaccinating everyone against the virus to protect cancer patients and other vulnerable people whose bodies may not mount an adequate immune response, even when they are fully vaccinated, doctors said Monday.

Powell, a former US secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died Monday, his family said.

Powell also had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body's immune response, as well as Parkinson's, Peggy Cifrino, Powell's longtime chief of staff, confirmed to CNN.

"We know patients who are older and/or immunocompromised, whether it’s from cancer, medications or other underlying medical conditions, are more vulnerable to contracting COVID with serious complications and even death, even if they are fully vaccinated. This aligns with the CDC’s recommendations about boosters. The reassuring data is that in vaccinated persons over 65 years of age, the incidence of death from breakthrough cases still remains eight to 10 times less than unvaccinated persons with the same demographics,” Dr. Khalilah Gates, associate professor of medicine in pulmonary and critical care at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.

"As unfortunate as his death is this morning, it shows the importance of vaccinations and the morbidity and mortality of being in one or more of those groups. It reinforces what we have been encouraging, continued vaccinations in those age groups and now boosters in those populations as well. For all of the Colin Powells amongst us, in our families, in our communities, we cannot afford to become lax,” Gates added.

“Like over 130,000 Americans today, Secretary Powell suffered from multiple myeloma, which is the second most common blood cancer after non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” added Dr. Paul Richardson, director of clinical research at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“Multiple myeloma disproportionately impacts Black patients, who are at twice the risk of developing the disease as compared to white Americans, and it’s expected that by 2034, nearly one in four multiple myeloma patients will be African American,” Richardson added.

He continued: “Covid-19 has been a considerable challenge in the multiple myeloma community. Patients are not only vulnerable to infection but once infected, they are more prone to serious complications including vascular effects and profound immune dysfunction. As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and we prepare to meet the challenges of new variants, we urge individuals to get vaccinated to not only protect themselves and their loved ones, but to protect the health of others as well.”

CNN's Devan Cole contributed reporting to this post.

3:26 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Powell's youth improvement group calls him a "fierce, longstanding advocate" for country's young people

From CNN’s Devan Cole 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell delivers remarks at an America's Promise Alliance education event in 2010.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell delivers remarks at an America's Promise Alliance education event in 2010. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

America’s Promise Alliance, a nationwide partnership network devoted to improving the lives of America's young people for which Colin Powell and his wife Alma were the founding co-chairs, mourned the loss of the former secretary of state on Monday, remembering him as “a fierce, longstanding advocate for the nation’s young people.” 

“At our founding, General Powell’s vision for a national collective effort to ensure the next generation’s wellbeing and success was groundbreaking,” C. Gregg Petersmeyer, chair of America’s Promise Alliance, said in a statement. “But General Powell didn’t stop at this vision. He put in the work. He committed his time, energy, creativity, financial resources, and leadership to helping this collective effort translate into impact in communities all across the country.”   

He continued: “(Powell’s) advocacy brought together unlikely partners, he inspired corporate America to make tangible commitments to the nation’s youth, and he shone a light on the important role that adults of all backgrounds can play in helping young people find their path to success. His own life was the very embodiment of America’s Promise.” 

2:14 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Vice President Harris: Colin Powell "upheld the highest standards"

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris mourned the loss of Colin Powell Monday, describing him as a “barrier breaker” who inspired many in the military and beyond.

“As National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State, he was an independent thinker and a barrier breaker who inspired leaders in our military and throughout our nation,” Harris said in a statement.

Harris described her last moments with Powell, saying, “I last saw and spoke with Secretary Powell in July, at a dinner honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I was reminded then how he always showed the world the best of who we are. He upheld the highest standards, representing our nation with dignity, grace, and strength.”

She added, “The legacy that he leaves behind – on America’s national security and on the leaders he mentored – can be seen every day across our nation and the world. “

Read her full statement below:

"Secretary Colin Powell dedicated his life to defending our nation. As National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State, he was an independent thinker and a barrier breaker who inspired leaders in our military and throughout our nation. 
Secretary Powell served our nation with courage, unwavering in his belief in its principles and its promise. The son of immigrants, Secretary Powell rose through the ranks of the United States Army. He was a decorated veteran and a devoted patriot.
I last saw and spoke with Secretary Powell in July, at a dinner honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I was reminded then how he always showed the world the best of who we are. He upheld the highest standards, representing our nation with dignity, grace, and strength.
The legacy that he leaves behind - on America’s national security and on the leaders he mentored - can be seen every day across our nation and the world. 
Douglas and I send our deepest condolences to Secretary Powell's wife, Alma Powell, and their children and grandchildren."  

2:16 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Biden orders flags at the White House to half-staff in honor of Colin Powell 

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden issued a proclamation ordering the flags at the White House and other federal buildings to half-staff until sunset on Friday in honor of the life and service of Colin Powell.

“He led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. He repeatedly broke racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow, and was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership. Colin Powell was a good man who I was proud to call my friend, and he will be remembered in history as one of our great Americans,” the proclamation reads in part.
1:35 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

State Department flags at half-staff in honor of Powell

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood

Jennifer Hansler/CNN
Jennifer Hansler/CNN

The American flag in front of the State Department has been lowered to half-staff to honor the life of Colin Powell, former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a senior State Department official.

The flag with the State Department seal also in front of the department has been lowered.

1:37 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Obama: "Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher"

Then-President Barack Obama meets with former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in the Oval Office of the White House December 1, 2010 in Washington, DC.
Then-President Barack Obama meets with former Secretary of State General Colin Powell in the Oval Office of the White House December 1, 2010 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former President Obama praised the leadership and character of Colin Powell, highlighting the ways the first Black secretary of state helped inspire current and future generations.

"General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher. He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow," Obama said.

"It was the way Colin Powell saw the world – not as a starry-eyed idealist, but as someone with deep and abiding faith in this country and what it stands for – that made him such a central figure," he continued.

The former President outlined some specific traits that he believed made Powell a great leader.

"Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute. And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served," Obama wrote.

Obama also used the opportunity to thank Powell for endorsing his 2008 candidacy. That move was seen as a significant boost for Obama's candidacy due to Powell's widespread popular appeal and stature as one of the most prominent and successful Black Americans in public life.

"On a personal level, I was deeply appreciative that someone like General Powell, who had been associated with Republican administrations in the past, was willing to endorse me in 2008. But what impressed me even more was how he did it," he said.

"At a time when conspiracy theories were swirling, with some questioning my faith, General Powell took the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter in a way only he could," he continued.

1:24 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Bill and Hillary Clinton: Colin Powell "spent a lifetime working to help our country"

Former US Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton speak during a ceremony to break ground on the US Diplomacy Center at the US State Department in Washington, DC, September 3, 2014.
Former US Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton speak during a ceremony to break ground on the US Diplomacy Center at the US State Department in Washington, DC, September 3, 2014. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent their condolences to the family of Colin Powell, whom they described in a statement as a "good and decent man."

"He lived the promise of America, and spent a lifetime working to help our country, especially our young people, live up to its own ideals and noblest aspirations at home and around the world," they said in the statement.

Read the Clintons' full statement:

“Colin Powell was a courageous soldier, a skilled commander, a dedicated diplomat, and a good and decent man. The son of immigrants, he rose to the top levels of military, civilian, and non-governmental service through intelligence, character, and the ability to see the big picture and attend to the smallest details. He lived the promise of America, and spent a lifetime working to help our country, especially our young people, live up to its own ideals and noblest aspirations at home and around the world.  
Hillary and I send our condolences to Alma, Michael, Linda, Annemarie, the entire Powell family, and all the people whose lives he touched through his service and example."