What Colin Powell’s Life and Death Can Teach Us about Vaccination, Racism, and Coalitions


It was recently announced that Colin Powell has died at the age of 84 from COVID-complications.


The news just emerged from his family that Colin Powell died at the age of 84. Certainly, he was one of our well-known public figures and, as such, the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule suggests not saying much about him personally. Yet, there are principles that can continue to guide us.

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In Honor of a Legacy: Colin Powell

One is COVID-19 vaccination, especially since the family conveyed that he was “fully vaccinated,” but died of COVID-related complications. For those in our country that want an excuse to not be vaccinated, this might be one. Yet, as it turns out, he had high vulnerability to be among the very rare people who die despite vaccination. He was not only elderly, but he was fighting the disease multiple myeloma, which increases his vulnerability in 2 ways: the illness itself and the treatment which further compromises his immune system. On the contrary, perhaps the vaccination helped him to live a bit longer. In addition, we do not whether it was someone unvaccinated who infected him.

Second was his struggle against racism. From being unable to get housing at Fort Benning when he first joined the Army due to his skin color to becoming our first Black Secretary of State was an extraordinary accomplishment, and models what can be done.

Third is his preference for coalitions over confrontations. Whereas he was talking about international conflict, he could just as well been talking about the divisiveness in our society. I quoted the journalist Brian Stelter in my earlier column today about how dangerous the “self-censorship” is that is being triggered “by small but vocal groups and powerful but cowardly leaders.”1 Instead, Colin Powell was usually called courageous.

Given the evolving news on his death, I apologize in advance for any factual mistakes.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.


1. Stetler B. Bari Weiss’ next act: a Substack newsletter that serves as ‘the newspaper for the 21st centur.’ CNN Business. Updated October 17, 2021. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/17/media/bari-weiss-newsletter/index.html

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