As COVID-19 measures are slackened in Nepal, and as the political leaders here repeatedly making same mistakes that are adverse to the progress of the country, Colin Powell’s example of his fight against the COVID-19, and his legacy as an excellent leader is worth reflecting on.
Colin Luther Powell made history as the first Black Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of USA. Unfortunately, he passed away because of COVID-19 on October-18, 2021 at the age of 84, in spite of being fully vaccinated against the virus. Colin was suffering from multiple health issues. According to NBC News, he had multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell, which can harm the body’s immune system, surgery of prostate cancer when he was Secretary of State and more recently, Parkinson’s disease. Although he fought all these disease and was active in his work for his country his death was due to complications because of COVID -19, according to a statement released by his family on Facebook after his passing away.
Relaxed celebration As Nepal seems to be very relaxed as far as observing COVID securities is concerned, it needs to be realised that the pandemic is still not over and is probably here to stay for quite a few years more. During Dashain festival, there was relaxed celebration, which probably is needed for the mental and psychological well-being of the people. However, Colin’s death points to the fact that even in the USA with the best medical facilities available, one of their most valued citizens could not be saved. People with multiple health problems have a chance of not being able to fight the virus, no matter how much well-equipped medical facilities are at their services.
In Nepal, health facilities are limited and accessible to only a fraction of the population. Government facilities are there and improving compared to the past, but not accessible to all. Nepal government is making vaccinations available to its best capacity, but it is a fact that the majority of the population still have not been vaccinated even once. Therefore, if people with multiple diseases get infected by COVID-19 virus, getting them back to normal health conditions and saving them from complication, could be a herculean task. One, due to lack of the required medical facilities, two, due to unaffordability, and three, due to the mindset that we Nepalis have against taking PCR tests and the proper measures to save oneself and those close to us by taking the appropriate measures against the virus.
While the death of Colin has alerted people globally to take utmost care to save themselves and those around them against the virus, his life is an inspiration to all. The strength and will that he demonstrated by admitting his mistakes and speaking against the wrong is an example that leaders in Nepal could learn from.
Colin was born to Jamaican immigrants in New York and is an example of how hard work and good opportunities can open doors to determined individuals to reach the powerful position. According to his Britannica autobiography, Colin had degrees from City College of New York and George Washington University, Washington DC. He served the US army since 1962. Since then and 2021 when he died, Powell has served and led the US army in wars, and as a top staff of the US National Security Councils has advised the US President in Security affairs after President Ronald Reagan appointed Powell to the head of National Security Council. In 1989, Powell took over the Army Forces Command.
Then in April 1989 he became a four-star general. The same year, President George Bush nominated him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, Powell led the invasion of Panama in 1989, led the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations of the Persian Gulf crisis and war. After retiring from the Army in 1993, he joined the Republic Party. In 2001 he was appointed Secretary of State by President George W Bush. The one thing Colin regretted was his controversial speech in the United Nations in February 2003, trying to seek broader international support for the Iraq war. This speech was later revealed to be based on wrong information from faulty intelligence. However, Collin showed his leadership in his mistakes too. He apologised for his speech which raised his status as a statesman.
Honesty Colin also demonstrated his honesty by speaking openly against the atrocities of Trump during his presidency, although he was a Republican. He also openly declared that he voted for Biden and not Trump. Colin had a chance to contest for the US Presidency but he did not and took the US Secretary of State position. But he endorsed Barrack Obama for his candidacy during both the election that Obama contested and won. He also supported Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden against Trump in spite of being a Republican. He therefore demonstrated his support for the Democrats because he felt that was best for his country then.
Our leaders in Nepal should learn from Colin’s journey. Making mistakes are human errors. Everyone can make mistakes, but those are the true leaders who admit they have made mistakes and don’t repeat them. Also, for the best of the country and the people they serve, public figures should have the insight and commitments to speak against wrong doings. Powell shattered several glass ceilings but has been etched in global politics and leadership as a man of honesty and integrity. He always stood for democracy and did not shy from speaking against his own party when he felt it was required for the wellbeing of his country.
(Namrata Sharma is a journalist and women rights activist. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)