Revised: May 27, 2012

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“Challenge young people by having high expectations of them; engage them with the opportunity to realize those expectations through constructive, character-building activities.”
Colin Powell
Soldier and Statesman, Born: April 5, 1937

Colin Powell was born in New York City on April 5, 1937. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Luther and Maud Powell, he was raised in the South Bronx. Powell was educated in the New York City public schools, and at City College of New York (CCNY). He participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation. He subsequently received a Master of Business Administration degree from George Washington University.

Powell served two tours of duty in Vietnam, and as a battalion commander in Korea. He later commanded the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and V Corps, United States Army in Europe, and was Commander in Chief of Forces Command, headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia. General Powell was the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 1989 until September 30, 1993, serving under both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

General Powell has been the recipient of numerous U.S. military decorations, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. His civilian awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and an honorary knighthood (Knight Commander of the Bath) from the Queen of England. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1993.

Between 1997 and 2001, retired General Powell served as founding chairman of America's Promise, an organization challenging Americans to make children and youth a national priority.

In January, 2001, General Powell was selected by President George W. Bush to serve as his Secretary of State. He was the first African-American to hold this high office in the United States Government. Powell stepped down from the position after President Bush's reelection to a second term. His four year tenure as Secretary of State was marked by disagreements with other Administration officials over policy. Regardless of these disagreements, Secretary Powell remained a loyal servant of the Bush Administration and an eloquent spokesman for the Administration in international affairs.

Powell left his position as Secretary of State with the admiration and respect of people around the world. The following quotation from a February 20, 2004 address at Princeton University provides an excellent example of Colin Powell's statesmanship:

“We must build a better future even as we deal with the security challenges before us. That is how we'll overcome those challenges, because it's not enough to fight against a negative, like terrorism. We must focus on what inspires us, on what brings the good people of the world together. We've got to fight for the positive — for liberty, for freedom, for democracy.”

Since leaving governmenrt service, Secretary Powell has assumed a number of private-sector positions. In July, 2005, he became a strategic limited partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a silicon valley venture capital firm. He has become a more active participant at The Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, established in his honor by his alma mater, the City College of New York in 1997. In May, 2006, Powell will succeed Henry Kissinger to become the 8th Chairman of the Eisenhower Fellowship Program.

Secretary Powell is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University, and of the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund. He serves on the Board of Governors of The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Children's Health Fund.

Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. The Powell family includes son Michael and daughters Linda and Annemarie; daughter-in-law Jane, and grandsons Jeffrey and Bryan.

If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Colin Powell or related subjects, or if you would like to comment, please contact us.

Resource Menu
Books By/About Colin Powell

It Worked for Me - In Life and Leadership It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership
by Colin L. Powell

Filled with vivid experiences and lessons learned that have shaped the legendary public service career of the four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Purchase this hardcover edition of It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership

My American Journey My American Journey
by Colin L. Powell

This autobiography provides an unrivaled view of the ins and outs of military bureaucracy. Powell shows how the modern American military, with its can-do attitude, is a congenial place to realize one's talents and aspirations. Excellent!

Purchase this hardcover edition of My American Journey

Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell
by Karen DeYoung

This new biography covers the pivotal events that helped shaped Colin Powell's world view. It includes new information about the inner workings of the a Whitehouse locked in ideological combat, making clearer than ever the decision-making process that took the nation to war in Iraq. It also addresses the still-unanswered questions about Powells departure from his post as Secratary of State shortly after the 2004 election. Drawing on interviews with U.S. and foreign sources as well as with Powell himself, and with unprecedented access to his personal and professional papers.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell

The Powell Principles The Powell Principles
by Oren Harari

This short book distills the decision-making habits, success strategies, and leadership philosophy of Colin Powell.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Powell Principles

The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell
by Oren Harari

This book presents Colin Powell's formula for successful leadership. It covers key principles including, promoting a clash of ideas, staying in touch with real people and real data, being flexible in action, letting the situation dictate the strategy and seeking out people with optimism and drive.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell

The Generals' War The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf
by Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor

This inside view of the battle between high U.S. command officers in the conflict with Iraq. Gordon teams with retired Marine general Bernard Trainor to tell how the generals of the combined services planned and execute the allied forces victory over Iraq.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Generals' War

DVDs About General Powell

Colin Powell Colin Powell (2004)
Produced by Educational Video Network, Inc

Learn about Colin Powell in this 12 minute summery of his life and career. Great for classroom presentation.

Purchase this DVD edition of Colin Powell

Charlie Rose with Colin Powell Charlie Rose with Colin Powell (2003)

An interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell on the eve of the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. He discusses the state of the war in Iraq and America's role in Middle East peace talks.

Purchase this DVD edition of Charlie Rose with Colin Powell

Colin Powell Online Videos

Colin Powell's Message to Kids

Colin Powell: 13 Rules of Leadership

Colin Powell speaks about leadership

The Essence of Leadership

Real Time with Bill Maher: General Colin Powell — September 19, 2014

Related Websites

Powell's Rules

Colin Powell on Iraq, Race, and Hurricane Relief—ABCNews Website

Biography of Colin Powell—

A Conversation With Colin Powell—A David Samuels interview from The Atlantic Magazine

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell talks with author David Samuels about the relative advantages of using "soft power" and "hard power" in spreading American influence and ideas.

Frontline's Oral History of the Gulf War
including an interview with General Powell

America's Promise Homepage

Colin Powell

Other Military Figures in the Lucidcafé Library

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