Saturday, November 07, 2009


by Cleo E. Brown

Colin Luther Powell is an example of a modern day African-American Leader. Both a military man and a statesman, Colin Powell was born in a Harlem Neighborhood of New York City, New York on April 5th, 1937. He grew up in the South Bronx. His parents, named Luther and Maud Powell, were Jamaican Immigrants who instilled with-in Colin Powell the importance of education and personal achievement.

Despite their mentoring of Powell, however, his high school years were not valuable to him. Powell both attended school in the New York City Public School system and worked in a store on evenings and weekends. Although he felt a sense of fulfillment in his work, he did not distinguish himself in school until, after graduating from high school, he enrolled at The City College of New York (CCNY) where he majored in Geology.

He also enrolled as a member of The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) where he found his calling. Inspite of graduating from CCNY in 1958 with the rank of Colonel and a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology, his grade point average was that of “C”. This G.P.A., however, did not prohibit Powell from advancing in his career as a military man since he entered the Army with the rank of Second Lieutenant. Nor did Colin Powell’s average G.P.A. at CCNY prohibit Colin Powell from earning and receiving an MBA from George Washington University in 1971. Although his grades at CCNY in other subjects had been low, Powell graduated at the top of his ROTC Class indicating his military genius.

Colin Powell saw two tours of duty in Viet Nam. During his first tour of duty, in which he served as an Army Advisor from 1962 to 1963, until he was wounded “while on patrol in a Viet-Cong held area…by stepping on a punji stake.”(Wikipedia, Colin Powell Biography, p.2) He was awarded, consequently, a Purple Heart Medal and a Bronze Star Medal . From 1968-1969 Powell served a second tour of duty in Viet Nam in the same battalion which had earlier been responsible for The My Lai Massacre. This time, he was wounded when his helicopter crashed. Despite his own injuries, however, he rescued everyone in the helicopter including his Commanding Officer. (Academy of Achievement, Colin Powell Biography, p.1)

For his bravery, in this instance, Colin Powell was awarded The Soldier’s Medal. Colin Powell did a third tour of duty in Asia in which he was a battalion Commander in Korea having earned the Army rank of Colonel. He also served as Commander of the 101st Airborne Division and V Corps for The United States Army in Europe before he returned to The United States. (Lucidcafe:Library, Colin Powell Biography,P.1) Stateside, he was The Commander-in-Chief of Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Georgia in 1989. (Wikipedia, p.3) This promotion came after he had served as National Security Advisor for Ronald Reagan following the Iran-Contra Scandal. Later in the year (1989) Reagan named Powell to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Colin Powell had achieved the rank of Lieutenant General when he began work as The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Wikipedia, p. 5) By January 20th, 2001 he had been appointed U.S. Secretary of State by President George W. Bush Jr. (Colin Powell, however, who did not approve of The Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq War, resigned this post shortly after President George W. Bush Jr. was re-elected for a second term. Time was to prove Powell correct.)

Colin Powell was not registered as a Republican Voter until 1995. He had previously registered as an Independent Voter feeling that it was his duty as a soldier and as a citizen of the United States to work on behalf of both The Democrat and The Republican Parties. Powell, consequently, voted for Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964, yet accepted a prestigious White House Fellowship to work under President Richard M. Nixon from 1972 to 1973. (Wikipedia, p. 3) Powell, similarly, worked for the Presidential Administration of James Earl Carter as an Assistant to the Deputy of Defense and to the Secretary of Energy.(Academy of Achievement, p.2) He also held the position of Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff under President William Jefferson Clinton. Powell and Clinton, unfortunately, however, disagreed over policy concerning gays in the military. Colin Powell, consequently, resigned his commission deciding to pursue other endeavors. (Academy of Achievement, p.2)

While he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, Powell’s marketability as a political candidate became quite clear. Both political parties, therefore, tried to claim him as one of their members. The Democrats sighted his work on behalf of Democratic Administrations while The Republicans sighted his work on behalf of Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Finally, in 1995, Colin Luther Powell openly declared himself a Republican campaigning exclusively for Republican Candidates. (Wikipedia, p.6) Powell, however, had no taste for politics which he has likened to a popularity contest. Despite his personal opinion, however, he has been rumored to be the favorite for positions such as President and Vice-President of the Untied States although these opportunities have never materialized.

In 2008, inspite of his strong Republican Party Membership, he supported the Democrat Barrack Obama for the office of President of the United States. (Colin Powell had donated the maximum amount of money possible to John McCain’s campaign during the summer of 2007.) As a Republican, Powell is considered to be a moderate Republican who supports “liberal and centrist causes.” (Wikipedia, p.10) Powell is pro-choice, and Powell is in favor of gun control. (Wikipedia, p.10) He also supports Affirmative Action Policy although he does not support preferential treatment if the Affirmative Action Candidate lacks the qualifications for the position in question. About his support of Barrack Obama for President in 2008 he has stated that he(Powell) believes Obama to be an all-inclusive candidate. Powell also questioned John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, whom Powell did not feel was yet ready to manage the Nation should a tragedy befall McCain, as a running-mate.

Colin Powell’s wife is named Alma Vivian Johnson Powell. Alma Powell is from Birmingham, Alabama. The couple were married on August 25th, 1962. Colin and Alma Powell are the parents of one son, named Michael Powell, who was the Chairman of the Federal Communication’s Commission from 2001 to 2005; and two daughters named Linda and Annemarie. They are also the grandparents of two little boys named Jeffrey and Bryan. (Lucidcafe:Library, p.2) In 2005, the couple was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution. (Wikipedia, p. 13)

Having never forgotten his own troubled youth in The New York City Public Schools, in 1997 Colin Powell became Chairman of America’s Promise, the Alliance for Youth. The Alliance for Youth was a program which targeted at-risk youth based upon ethnicity and economic status in the inner-cities of The United States.

Currently, Colin Powell is a member of The Board of Trustees of Howard University, and a member of the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund. He also 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. (Lucidcafe:Library, p.2) Beginning with his position as National Security Advisor , Colin Powell was the first African-American to serve in this capacity. This tendency has proven true of every position he has held ever since. (Academy of Achievement, p.2) In addition to his Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Soldier’s Medal, Colin Powell has won many other awards and honors including two Presidential Medals of Freedom (awarded by George H.W. Bush Sr. in 1991 and William Jefferson Clinton in 1993). He has also received The Presidential Citizen’s Medal.

About The Author: Cleo E. Brown has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary African-American History from The University of California at Davis in Davis, California. She also has a B.A. Minor Degree in Political-Science and has completed course work towards a Ph.D. in Education from The University of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. She is a Free Lance Writer and a Senior Editor at HHR.

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