He was a most articulate, persuasive speaker who loved bun and calypso — Ambassador Richard BernalTuesday, October 19, 2021
Former Jamaican ambassador to the United States Dr Richard Bernal remembers General Colin Powell as a charismatic and confident personality who quickly absorbed “an enormous amount of complex information and get to the gravamen of the matter”.
Following is Bernal's tribute to the former US secretary of state:
Secretary of State General Colin Powell was a great man who had a global impact. Among his many achievements are, notably, being the first black man to be the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and secretary of state. I need not recite the well-known facts of his outstanding career. I share my impressions of him based on our working relationship and friendship since 1991, because people who did not know him would not know what kind of person he was.
I observed the qualities that facilitated his rise from enlisted soldier, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, to general and statesman. First, his remarkable intelligence which allowed him to quickly absorb an enormous amount of complex information and get to the gravamen of the matter. Second, [was his] thoughtful and carefully balanced judgement. Third, his charismatic personality, which was an integral part of his always confident and calm leadership. Fourth, his courage to stand up for his beliefs and speak his mind, for example endorsing Obama and Biden although being a Republican. Fifth, he was a most articulate and persuasive speaker, fluent and precise with command of his subject matter. Sixth, he worked very hard. I remember him telling me that, by the time he got to office he had read all the reports, briefs and media. I thereafter adopted this practice.
He was a relaxed person with a sense of humour. I recall him jokingly saying to me at one meeting, “Richard, did you bring a bun for me?” Subsequently, I would try to send him a bun at Easter. He loved old Jamaican calypsos he heard as a boy in his home and appreciated the Dollar Wine.
He never forgot his Jamaican roots and extended family in Jamaica. While I was the ambassador to the United States of America he responded to my invitation to the annual diplomatic receptions and church service in honour of Jamaica's Independence, reception for Governor General Sir Howard Cooke at the residence, and he and his wife Alma were the patrons and attended the Jamaica Folk Singers performance at Kennedy Centre.
He retained a strong interest in Jamaica and made no secret of it. At the parade and reception to mark his retirement from the US army, my wife Margaret was invited and mounted a lavish exhibition on Jamaican culture which delighted him. Another indication was when Michael Manley demitted office as prime minister, President George Bush graciously invited him to a small dinner in the personal quarters of the White House attended by the speaker of the House of Congress, secretary of the Treasury, Margaret and I and, naturally, General Powell. I well recall that, at a small dinner at the Kennedy Centre I was seated between Colin Powell and Harry Belafonte and introduced them to each other because they had never met in person.
His commitment to Jamaica was evident in his always being available to see me at his office and home, even after I demitted office. When I demitted the office of ambassador, he wrote to me as secretary of state: “During your ten years as ambassador, you have earned the respect and admiration throughout this country thanks to your effective representation of the interests of Jamaica and the Caribbean region. The United States has benefited from your cooperation on a wide range of issues of mutual interests.”
Margaret and I extend our condolence to Alma and the Powell family.