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Joe Biden, Barack Obama, George W. Bush attend Colin Powell funeralFriends, family, colleagues and presidents attended Gen. Colin Powell's funeral in Washington, D.C.USA TODAY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Family and colleagues of Colin Powell remembered the trailblazing military and diplomatic leader Friday as a brilliant general – and an even greater man – who led by example with “charismatic pragmatism,” a “passion for people” and love of helping the next generation.

“Colin Powell was as great lion with a big heart, and we will miss him terribly,” said Powell’s son Michael Powell, tearing up as he concluded a powerful closing eulogy at Powell’s funeral.

Powell died Oct. 18 after complications with COVID-19. His funeral at the Washington National Cathedral lasted nearly two hours. President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush sat on a front pew with Powell’s family, including his wife of nearly 60 years, Alma Powell, sitting on the opposite side of the aisle.

“This morning, my heart aches, because we've lost a friend and our nation one of his finest and most loyal soldiers,” said Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state under President Clinton, who also eulogized Powell along with Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under Powell.

Albright, a Democrat, said the Republican Powell and her “didn’t always reach the same conclusions” but became wonderful friends nonetheless.

“The reason is that beneath that glossy exterior of warrior statesman was one of the gentlest and most decent people any of us will ever meet,” Albright said. “As I got to know him, I came to view Colin Powell as a figure who almost transcended time for his virtues were Homeric: honesty, dignity, loyalty, and an unshakable commitment to his calling and word.

“These were the same traits he sought tirelessly to instill in the soldiers under his command,” Albright added.

Biden did not speak at the funeral, nor did the two former presidents in attendance: Bush, for whom Powell served as secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, and Obama, who Powell broke party ranks to endorse during both of Obama’s presidential elections.

Former President Donald Trump, who disparaged Powell in a statement after his death, did not attend the funeral. Bill Clinton, who is recovering from a sepsis infection, and Jimmy Carter, who turned 97 last month, also did not attend.

In a nod to Powell’s Jamaican roots, a brass band played Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” before the service began followed by “Dancing Queen” from Powell’s favorite band, the Swedish pop group Abba.

Previous updates from Colin Powell's funeral:

Powell’s funeral ends as casket escorted out of cathedral

Powell’s casket was escorted out of the cathedral and down the steps by military officers shortly before 2 p.m. EDT, ending a nearly two-hour funeral service. It was then placed in the back of a hearse.

The sound of an organ filled the cathedral. Powell’s family, including his wife Alma Powell, proceeded out first. Alma, in a wheelchair, shook hands with friends and greeted other mourners as she left.

Biden and his wife Jill spoke to the Powell family after the service. Biden, wearing a black mask for COVID-19 precautions, leaned in closely to embrace Alma Powell. The Obamas and Bushes also greeted the Powell family.

Biden and former presidents Obama and Bush greeted each other and exchanged pleasantries before making their way out.

'The military was his second family'

The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, vicar of the Washington National Cathedral, cited scripture and discussed Powell’s deep love for the military as the ceremony neared the end.

“Colin, may you gaze upon our Lord, face to face. May angels surround you and saints welcome you in peace.  And may your heart and soul ring out in joy to the living God in his presence.”

Kenworthy, a former military chaplain, said Powell cherished the opportunities that military service had given him and so many others.

“The military was his second family.”

He said Powell and others who serve in the military, especially in combat, “come to know that there is a component of love in that bond, and one that you actually depend on.”

The service ended up with a lyrical performance of "How Great Thou Art" and the Lord’s Prayer.

'A great lion with a big heart': Powell's son delivers emotional tribute

Powell’s son Michael delivered a powerful closing eulogy in which he said his father’s most important life lessons were not about trying to follow his trail-blazing path or duplicate his gold-plated resume.

“It is to emulate his character and his example as a human being,” Michael Powell said of his father. “We can strive to do that. We can choose to be good ... Colin Powell was a great lion with a big heart.”

Powell said he hopes his father will continue to serve as an inspiration and a role model. 

"I've heard it asked, 'Are we still making his kind?' I believe the answer to that question is up to us," he said. "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."

Powell said his father had a “zest for life, derived from his endless passion for people.”

“He was genuinely interested in everyone he met. He loved the hot dog vendor, a bank-teller, a janitor and a student as much as any world leader.”

He recalled how a military veteran recently pulled over on the side of the road to help Powell when his Corvette got a flat tire. Powell not only agreed be photographed with the man; he had a long conversation with the man and invited him back to dinner.

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

In a particularly emotional moment, Michael Powell talked about visiting his father for the last time at his hospital bedside as Colin Powell was taking his final breaths. Michael Powell recalled his father being at his own ICU beside years before after he’d been injured in a serious accident.

Michael Powell held his father’s hand, just like his father had once squeezed his.

“That hand is still now,” Michael Powell said, “but it left a deep imprint on the lives of family and dear friends, soldiers and sailors, presidents, prime ministers and a generation of aspiring young people.”

Powell was ‘always true to himself,” Albright says, and ‘made pragmatism charismatic'

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Powell’s predecessor as the nation’s top diplomat, remembered Powell for his wisdom, directness, pragmatism and as a champion for youth.

“This morning my heart aches,” Albright said, “because we've lost a friend, and our nation, one of its finest and most loyal soldiers.”

She added: “Yet even as we contemplate the magnitude of our loss, we can almost hear a familiar voice asking us – no commanding us – to stop feeling sad, to turn our gaze once again from the past, to the future, and to get on with the nation's business.”

Albright said Powell “relished the opportunity” to connect with younger generations. He used to tell his friends it’s “always the right time” to reach out to someone to put them on the road to success, Albright said.

She recounted her many phone calls and lunches with Powell, saying, “He was always true to himself” and “had a code instilled him by his immigrants parents, honed by army tradition and nurtured by more than half a century of marriage.”

She talked about meetings when she could “almost hear his eyes roll when it was his turn to speak.” Albright said Powell was “brilliant” at distilling what mattered and what did not.

“He cared only about achieving results,” Albright said, adding that Powell “made pragmatism charismatic.”

Armitage recounts Powell’s lighter side, love of family

Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under Powell and a friend of 40 years, told some of his favorite stories from his time working with the military and diplomatic leader – like the time the Harlem Globetrotters came by the Pentagon and Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, kept dropping their passes.

“He looked straight at that Globetrotter and said 'While you were out shooting hoops, I was stealing hubcaps',” Powell said, according to Armitage's account of the exchange. 

Armitage also delved into Powell’s musical tastes, including his love of the disco band Abba. Powell once got on his knee to sing the song “Mama-mia” to diplomats from Sweden, Armitage recounted.

“Our tastes in music were not very similar, except ones with goals in mind,” he said.

Armitage closed by speaking directly to Powell's wife and children. He told them that even as he was busy addressing urgent national matters, he always talked about his family.  

“I want you know he never took it for granted. Every morning, I heard about it.”

‘He fought the good fight and he kept the faith’

The Rev. Randolph Hollerith, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, began the service. He said the mourners were gathered to “give thanks for all the goodness and courage that have passed through Colin Powell, his life and into the lives of others.”

“For his loyalty to his country, and his love of the good, and for all those noble qualities of mind and soul that endeared him to so many,” Hollerith continued. “He lived a life of service, and he was a great blessing to all who knew him.

“In the words of St. Paul, he fought the good fight and he kept the faith.”

The church hymn “Ode to Joy” then played.

Dignitaries and family in attendance

In addition to President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, other attendees include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney.

Other Biden administration officials at the service include Secretary of State Antony Blinken; Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin; and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell’s family members in attendance include his wife Alma Powell, his daughter Linda Powell and his son Michael Powell, who is one of the ceremony’s eulogizers.

Former Presidents Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are not in attendance.

Powell’s casket arrives after family takes their seats

Powell’s family, including Alma Powell, Colin Powel’s wife of 59 years, arrived shortly after noon and took seats in the front pew in the historic cathedral. Alma Powell arrived in a wheelchair.

Colin Powell’s casket, draped with an American flag, was carried into the cathedral at 12:10 p.m. EDT. Those in attendance stood in honor of the military and diplomatic leader.

Biden takes seat next to Bush, Obama as band plays Bob Marley

President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden arrived at Powell’s funeral shortly before noon EDT and sat in the front pew next to former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.

Sitting next to the Obamas are former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.

A brass band played Bob Marley’s "Three Little Birds", a nod to Powell’s Jamaican heritage, before the proceedings began followed by an instrumental version of Abba’s “Dancing queen,” a popular disco hit.

Dignitaries to pay tribute to Powell at funeral on Friday

Dignitaries including President Joe Biden, two former presidents, and military and diplomatic colleagues Friday will pay tribute to Colin Powell, the trailblazing former secretary of state and military leader, who died last month at 84. 

Powell's funeral will begin at noon at Washington National Cathedral. Powell, the nation's first Black secretary of state, widely revered by Republicans and Democrats alike, died Oct. 18 of complications from COVID-19.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend Powell's funeral but not speak. Also in attendance will be President George W. Bush, whom Powell served under, and former President Barack Obama, who Powell, a Republican, broke party ranks to endorse in both of Obama's presidential elections.

Powell's eulogy will be delivered by Madeleine Albright, who preceded Powell as secretary of state in the Clinton administration; Richard Armitage, deputy secretary under Powell who also worked alongside him in the Reagan administration; and Powell's son, Michael.

Former President Donald Trump, whose leadership and rhetoric Powell criticized, will not attend the funeral. Bill Clinton, who is recovering from an sepsis infection, is not scheduled to attend, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend. Jimmy Carter, who turned 97 last month, will not be in attendance.

Colin Powell funeral: Watch live as Biden, ex-presidents and other dignitaries honor trailblazer

More: Colin Powell, first Black secretary of state, dies from COVID-19 complication

The son of Jamaican immigrants raised in the Bronx, Powell embodied the American dream, his admirers say, climbing the military ranks over four decades in public life to become national security advisor for Reagan, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under George H. W. Bush and the younger Bush's secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. 

He was the first Black Secretary of State in U.S. history. 

More: Key House vote, funeral for Colin Powell, October jobs report: 5 things to know Friday

As secretary of state, Powell oversaw U.S. diplomacy in the aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Powell served two combat tours in Vietnam before taking on leadership roles including overseeing the first Gulf War in 1990-1991, when American and allied forces drove Iraq's invading military from Kuwait.

"Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx,” Powell wrote in his autobiography.

Contributing: Associated Press

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/11/05/colin-powell-funeral-biden-presidents-honor-trailblazer/6296213001/

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Source:USA Today

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