Daily Video

October 19, 2021

Remembering the life and legacy of Colin Powell

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

Summary: Colin Powell, the first Black secretary of state died Monday from complications related to COVID-19, but his family says he also suffered from multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system. Nick Schifrin looks back at his life and career.

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who was Colin Powell?
  • What are some of the things Powell will be remembered for, according to this piece?
  • Where and When did Powell serve in the military and in the U.S. government?
  • Why is Powell’s legacy a complicated one, according to this piece?
  • How was Powell at the center of critical decisions made by the U.S. government, including the invasion of Iraq?

Focus question: What aspect of Powell’s career do you think is most remarkable, and what do you think will define his legacy? Why do you think so?

Media literacy questions: 

  1. Why do you think a look back at important public figure’s legacies is a regular feature of the news? Does an obituary like this help you understand the past and present of the United States?
  2. Share the following image with students with the goal of discussing why people’s legacies can be complicated. Study the image of Colin Powell below. What do you notice? What do you think Powell is holding? How would you describe his expression? What do you think is happening in the photo? (use the background to help you). Then read more on the background of the photograph below.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he described as one that could contain anthrax, during his presentation on [Iraq] to the U.N. Security Council, in New York February 5, 2003. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine


Helpful context: The photo was taken while Powell giving a speech in front of the U.N. Security Council as secretary of state in essence to convince the public to support the invasion of Iraq based on that country allegedly acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). However, the intelligence was bad and no WMDs were ever found in Iraq. This development tarnished Powell’s legacy in the eyes of many Americans who became convinced that invading Iraq was the right thing to do after they heard Powell’s speech at the U.N. Powell, who had reservations about the invasion, later regretted giving the speech.

  • The invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to great instability in the region that we see to this day and to the formation of groups like ISIS; the spending of several hundred billions of dollars funded by the American taxpayer and thousands of U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers being killed; and finally, 184,382 and 207,156 Iraqi civilians have died from direct war-related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through October 2019.

Additional resources:

For more on Powell’s legacy and how he was at the center of many crucial decisions in recent U.S. history including the Iraq War, see the video below.


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