SACRED HONOR: THE BIOGRAPHY OF COLIN POWELL was published to coincide with the recent retirement of General Colin Powell from the United States Army. Powell, who rose to public prominence during the Gulf War, has been widely mentioned as a possible political candidate for national office. David Roth’s study, written with the cooperation of Powell, his family, and his political and military colleagues, is perhaps the opening shot in that campaign.
Growing up in a middle-class, integrated neighborhood in New York City, where his family had immigrated from Jamaica, Powell enjoyed the security of a close and deeply religious family life. An indifferent student at college, he entered the military after graduation and saw duty in Vietnam in the early days of America’s involvement. A committed professional officer with a talent for administration, Powell served in Washington, D.C., under every president from Nixon to Clinton. In 1989 he was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During the Persian Gulf conflict, Powell’s calm and poised manner complemented the more mercurial temperament of General Schwarzkopf. It was not an easy relationship but was handled professionally, according to Roth, and together they were a formidable team which captured the attention of the public.
Powell’s heroes are Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. He has not publicly identified himself with either major political party, and, like Jefferson, he holds both liberal and conservative beliefs. Conscious of his position as a role model for African Americans, Powell has stressed the importance of family and education. Roth contends that Powell will not actively seek the presidency but states that if America ever finds itself in crisis, Powell will serve with honor. Something of a campaign biography, SACRED HONOR is a timely portrayal of one of America’s most respected figures, one whose career might not be over yet.