By Arthur I. Cyr, Special to The China Post
Right-wing Republicans, especially on the radio, are promoting the argument that Gen. Colin Powell’s endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is a matter of race, since both are black. This very misguided move could transform current Republican political difficulties into Republican political disaster. Republican presidential nominee John McCain quite rightly, and wisely, disavows the ploy. The remarkably high sustained regard for Powell by the American public is directly related to his career of public service. He rose in the U.S. Army from Vietnam tactical unit combat leader to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving along the way as National Security Adviser to Pres. Ronald Reagan. Most recently, he spent four unhappy years as Secretary of State during Pres. Bush’s first term.
After retiring from the military, Powell earned substantial sums from his memoirs, supplemented by lecture fees, but generally avoided corporate directorships and Washington lobbyists. Instead, he devoted great effort to founding America’s Promise, a youth service organization. As a personal and professional role model he is unsurpassed, especially for black youth but also the population at large. In other words, Colin Powell is what we used to refer to as a dedicated public servant, comparable to an earlier greatly esteemed leader, Gen. George C. Marshall. As Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Marshall did grueling essential work to get a dangerously unprepared America at least partially ready for the desperate struggle of the Second World War. He then led the mammoth organizational effort required for victory over the Axis, and served Pres. Harry Truman as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense during years when the Cold War and Korean War both began. Marshall wanted very much to lead the Normandy invasion, but Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt considered him indispensable in Washington. Ever the good soldier, Marshall never pressed the matter. Ever the shrewd judge of character, FDR let Marshall decide, knowing full well his man would put duty over desire.