Flashback June 26, 2002: His Highness the Aga Khan and (Late) US Secretary of State Colin Powell Launch Smithsonian Folklife’s Silk Road Festival

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-EditorBarakah, Simergand Simergphotos)

Colin Powell Aga Khan Silk Roads
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (left), and Secretary of State Colin Powell (d. October 18, 2021), touring Samarkand Square, one of the main pavillions set up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the weeklong Silk Road Festival that was launched on June 26, 2002. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji

The brief below on (Late) Colin Powell is excerpted from an obituary by Ken Bredemeier published in the VOA on October 18, 2021.

We have learnt with sadness that General Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state and a former chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, died Monday October 18, 2021, from complications of COVID-19. He was 84. His family announced his death in a Facebook posting, saying, “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.” Powell had multiple myeloma, a white blood cell cancer that suppresses the body’s immune response. Even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, immunocompromised people are at greater risk.

Powell was the country’s top diplomat from 2001 to 2005 during the first term of Republican President George W. Bush’s administration. He played a key role in leading the U.S. into its ill-fated invasion of Iraq on the erroneous intelligence that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to world peace. On February 5, 2003, Powell addressed the U.N. Security Council, advancing the case for war sought by President George W. Bush and key officials in his administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

President George Bush loans his glasses to first lady Barbara Bush as she pins a Medal of Freedom on Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a White House ceremony, July 3, 1991. Photo: File picture, Voice of America.

By September 2005, however, he acknowledged that his U.N. speech was rife with inaccuracies based on faulty U.S. intelligence. In a television interview, he described his support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a “blot” on his record. The U.S. did not discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “It will always be a part of my record,” Powell said. “It was painful. It’s painful now.”

President Joe Biden called Powell “a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity. Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Biden said. Former U.S. President Barack Obama offered his tribute, as well. “General Colin Powell understood what was best in this country and tried to bring his own life, career and public statements in line with that ideal,” said Obama in a statement Monday, October 18. “Michelle and I will always look to him as an example of what America — and Americans — can and should be.”

Powell was viewed in U.S. political circles as a moderate Republican and pragmatist. He considered running for president in 1996 against Clinton but decided not to, as his wife, Alma, voiced fears for his safety. In 2008, he broke ranks with the Republican Party and endorsed the presidential candidacy of Democrat Barack Obama, who went on to become the first African American elected to the White House.

June 26, 2002: His Highness the Aga Khan and Colin Powell at Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Colin Powell, Aga Khan and Kennedy at Smithsonian Folklife Festival Barakah
Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Senator Edward Kennedy at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on June 26, 2002 in Washington DC. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

On June 26, 2002, Colin Powell joined Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and distinguished government leaders, including Senator Edward Kennedy (d. August 25, 2009) and Senator Sam Brownback, as well as renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, to light a lamp symbolically inaugurating the weeklong Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Aga Khan and Colin Powell Smithsonian Folklife Festival Silk Roads Barakah
Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble perform on June 26, 2002 at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, are seated at right. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.
Aga Khan and Colin Powell Silk Roads Festival Barakah
Khongorzul, accompanied by Amartuvshin on the morin khuur, performs on June 26, 2002 at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folkilife Festival, while Secretary of State Colin Powell and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (right), look on. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

The Festival was produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and for the first time in its 36 year history dedicated to a single theme: “The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust.” It featured a living exhibition of the music, crafts, culinary and narrative traditions involved in the cultural interchange between the “East” and the “West.”

Senator Edward Kennedy, in his remarks, expressed deep appreciation of the role played by Mawlana Hazar Imam in the process of education and cultural understanding. “Now more than ever,” said Sen. Kennedy, “his is a voice that needs to heard and understood.” In his speech, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

Aga Khan Colin Powell Smithsonian Folklife Silkroads Festival Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC on June 26, 2002. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji

“I wanted to share with you some of the reasons why the theme of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this year is so important.  As you know, Central Asia has been an area of considerable concern and instability for the world.  Over the past decade, Central Asian countries have come into existence in difficult circumstances. Frontiers have been changed, ethnic groups have been divided, old traditions have been modified by the Soviet presence, and all this has caused considerable difficulty in looking ahead in that part of the world.

Silk Roads Festival Aga Khan and Colin Powell launch it, barakah
Some of the record crowds visit Samarkand Square during the weeklong Silk Roads Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. that was launched on June 26, 2002 in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Capitol building is in the background. AKDN/Zahur Ramji

“This period of deep change at the national and regional levels has prompted a search for new forces of stability. One that seems particularly important, I think, to the United States and to all of us, is the validation and vigorous promotion of human and cultural pluralism.  Historically the Silk Route was a link that interconnected diverse aspects of human society and culture from the Far East to Europe, and did so on the basis of mutual interest.  This suggests that for the new countries of Central Asia, the inherent pluralism of their societies can be regarded as an asset rather than a liability.  In the wider sense, it can be a means of enlarging the frontiers of global pluralism. This is a goal with which we all can and should associate.”

Date posted: October 18, 2021.


Please read more about the SILK ROAD FESTIVAL AT AKDN.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com if you don’t see the comment box. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.


  1. A very informative article and recollection. This informative and educational Festival was held within a year of the 9-11 tragedy.


  2. Y’ali madat, brother Malik:

    Congrats—mashalla! On a fast track for the attached article!

    You are getting better by every article you publish!

    Our tariquah-ummah is mighty proud of your endeavors!

    Coldwell Banker Realty
    Associate Broker/Commercial Consultant
    2890 E. Skyline Drive #250 Tucson, ARIZONA,
    USA 85718
    “Successfully serving Tucson since 1978”


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