Hours after former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s death was announced, President Biden is expressing his condolences, calling the diplomat and military leader “a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.”
“Jill and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity, General Colin Powell,” Biden said in a statement distributed by the White House.
Powell died Monday of complications from COVID-19, his family said in a statement. The 84-year-old was fully vaccinated against the virus.
Powell had multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that can damage the immune system, making it harder to fight off infections, according to NBC News.
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family said.
In his statement, Biden highlighted Powell’s background, particularly advising four presidents after rising to the highest ranks of the US military as a son of immigrants.
“He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others,” Biden said.
The president also noted the time he had worked closely with Powell when the New York native served as national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state.
“Over our many years working together — even in disagreement — Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect.”
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Biden added. “He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity.”
In all his roles, Biden said, Powell “led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong.”
“Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.”
Biden reflected on the historic changes Powell made during his service, breaking racial barriers and committing to “investing in the next generation of leadership.”
“Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business — something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.”
The president ended his statement by sending his and first lady Jill Biden’s “love and strength” to Powell’s widow, Alma, and their children.
“Colin Powell was a good man,” Biden said. “He will be remembered as one of our great Americans.”
Biden’s statement came hours after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined together to express their sadness and shock over Powell’s death.
To honor Powell and his service, Biden ordered the US flag to be flown at half-staff at the White House, all public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations and naval vessels through Oct. 22.
“I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” Biden said in a separate statement.