On this day, fifty-nine years ago, Adlai Stevenson showed the United Nations Security Council reconnaissance photographs of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba. Stevenson was a serious contender for president on three previous occasions and later, in 1961, became President Kennedy’s ambassador to the United Nations.
On October 18, former secretary of state Colin Powell passed away. Sadly, one small part of his legacy was presenting a claim to the United Nations in February 2003 that Iraq and Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, attributed to marginal and questionable intelligence. In meetings running up to the UN speech, he advised the national leadership against invading Iraq, saying “if you break it, you own it.” Powell publicly regretted his part in the G.W. Bush administration’s deception, concluding that it was a “blot” on his career.
Nonetheless, General Powell was a hugely popular figure among the American public and in Republican circles. In November 1995, he announced he would not be a presidential candidate, disappointing many who urged him to run. Since 1840, October has been known as the month for political surprises. In that tradition, Powell endorsed Barack Obama on October 19, 2008, emphasizing his detachment from the Republican party.
Later, during the 2008 campaign, Powell criticized Republican leadership for engaging in phobic comments about Obama’s alleged ties to Islam and accusations of being a Muslim.
The threads of commonality between Stevenson’s and Powell’s service as UN ambassador at critical moments in the nation’s history present a theme for October 2021.
RIP Colin Powell, a class act.