HONG KONG (Reuters) - Former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell on Wednesday hailed Barack Obama’s U.S. presidential election victory as a historic day in race relations but played down the likelihood of joining Obama’s administration.
“President-elect Obama is going to be a president for all America,” Powell, one of the most prominent black Americans who served in the military and government for 40 years, told reporters in Hong Kong.
He praised Obama for running an inclusive campaign that had cut across ethnic, income and age lines and described his victory as an historic occasion.
“ ... the fact that he is also black just has turned America on, it’s very emotional,” Powell said of Obama, who becomes the first black U.S. president.
Powell, a retired U.S. general and former secretary of state in Republican President George W. Bush’s administration, endorsed Democrat Obama in October, calling him a “transformational figure” who could be an “exceptional president.”
Powell however played down the prospects of being part of the new Obama administration with slightly different comments to those he made last month, when he said he was not looking for a job but would have to consider it if asked.
“I am not interested in a position in government, nor have I been offered one, I don’t expect to be offered one,” he said.
“Should he call me for advice I’d be more than happy to give it, but I cannot expect to be going back to government,” he said.
Powell spoke of Obama’s victory while describing his own struggle in overcoming racial prejudice when he first joined the army soon after former President Harry S. Truman had desegregated the military.
“In 50 years I have seen my country move so dramatically toward a dream that our founding fathers had,” Powell said.
“It says a lot about who we are as a people and emotions you see in the United States ... that’s the America we remember, that’s the America we want to see, that’s the America that’s always been an example to the rest of the world,” Powell said.
He expected an Obama administration to reach out to America’s potential adversaries as well seek a greater engagement with its allies.
“Its easy to talk to a friend, sometimes it is a little more difficult to talk to adversaries, but they are the ones you need to talk to, and talk to them, not just place demands and demand an outcome of negotiations before the negotiations are held,” he said.
Powell urged Obama to reach out to China politically and economically to further bolster Sino-U.S. ties. “I do not expect him to adopt protectionist policies,” he said.
Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani