Colin Powell on Principles & Values
Secretary of State (Pres. Bush Cabinet)
OpEd: Many presidents made initial contribution in military
I first met General Colin Powell at a national conference in Detroit for which we were both keynote speakers. At that time, he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and was already quite well known throughout the world. He was alert in noticing every
detail about his environment and the people around him at every moment. His dignified but relaxed demeanor, and ability to speak competently to anyone on a wide range of subjects, inspired awe in everyone around him.
I subsequently became a board member of his "America's Promise" organization and became even more impressed with his organizational skills and vision for our nation. Many of our former presidents, including
George Washington, made their initial contributions to our society through their military participation, and I believe Colin Powell could probably have become the first African-American president of the US.
Source: America the Beautiful, by Ben Carson, p.128-129
, Jan 24, 2012
OpEd: Worldview is nuanced; decisionmaking by consensus
A two-hour NSC Principals meeting is core to the national security advisor's mission but a drain on the time of a secretary. The truth is that we would have had fewer Principals meetings had the distrust between Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell not made the
levels below the secretaries largely incapable of taking decisions. The two had dissimilar styles: Colin was a cautious consensus builder in international politics, and Don was confrontational. Don rarely saw shades of gray on an issue, while
Colin almost always saw nuances. This, of course, reflected their different roles, but it was more than that; it was a matter of personality and worldview as well. Don's more black-and-white view of the world sometimes accorded more closely with that of
the President in the early days, particularly after 9/11.
Colin thought that I was not strong enough in my support of him and the State Department agenda. But truthfully, I wondered why he did not take greater advantage of his extraordinary stature.
Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p. 20-21
, Nov 1, 2011
2000: Selected for State because admired at home & abroad
The first selection for the Cabinet was easy. Colin Powell would be secretary of state. I had first met Colin at Camp David in 1989, when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He and Dick Cheney had come to brief Dad on the surrender of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Colin was wearing his army uniform. In contrast to the formality of his dress, he was good-natured and friendly.
He spoke to everyone in the room, even bystanders like the president's children.
Colin was widely admired at home and had a huge presence around the world. He would credibly defend
American interests and values, from a stronger NATO to freer trade. I believed Colin could be the second coming of George Marshall, a soldier turned statesman.
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p. 83
, Nov 9, 2010
2004: Cabinet exit meant loss to Cheney-Rumsfeld war theory
Powell as secretary of state, the loser to Cheney and Rumsfeld in winning Bush's ear and his collaboration in pursuit of the war. In the confirmation hearings of Powell's successor, Condoleeza Rice, moving up from her first-term post as
With Bush's reelection came a modest remaking of his administration, and with it further watchdog responsibilities for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The most significant change was the jettisoning of Colin
The moderate voices are now gone. The president pointedly got rid of Colin Powell and other centrists. The only people left are the neocons."
Bush's national security adviser, Biden gave her a hard time as a defender of the war, but then voted to confirm her. Biden expressed his fears of what the second term would bring. "It may be worse.
Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p.362
, Oct 5, 2010
1995: No presidential run because "I'm not a politician"
In Dec. 2006, Obama sought the counsel of Gen. Colin Powell. Obama wanted to know about Powell's flirtation with running for the presidency in 1995. Why had he decided against it? "It was pretty easy," Powell said. "I'm not a politician."
Powell about foreign policy--and also about race, Did the general think the country was ready for an African American president? I think it might have been ready when I was thinking about running, Powell told Obama. It's definitely more ready now.
Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p. 69
, Jan 11, 2010
Obama campaign: political realization of the Powell Doctrine
Powell warned McCain that his greatest reservation [to endorsing McCain] was the intolerant tone overtaking the Republican Party. McCain's selection of Palin bothered Powell because he saw her as polarizing. He was dismayed by McCain's deployment of Ayer
as an issue, perceived it as pandering to the right. And the hate-soaked rallies, which he considered anti-American. "This isn't what we're supposed to be," he thought.
Powell had leaned toward staying neutral, but these outbursts were all too much--an
McCain had moved only belatedly to stop them. Obama, by contrast, had displayed terrific judgment during the financial crisis, Powell thought. And his campaign had been run with military precision; the show of overwhelming force struck the general as a
political realization of the Powell Doctrine. On Oct. 19, he endorsed Obama.
The general's repudiation was a stinging blow for McCain. McCain had to wonder what had become of him if his current incarnation was repelling someone like Powell.
Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.421-422
, Jan 11, 2010
1995: Polled 54% to 39% for president against Bill Clinton
Until Obama, no one was better positioned to take advantage of the changing tide [on black candidates] than Colin Powell. In the fall of 1995, he had just concluded a triumphant promotional tour for his hugely successful memoir, "My American Journey."
Huge, adoring crowds had greeted him across the country, and his popularity seemed to know no limits. In September a Gallup poll measured "significantly higher" favorability ratings for Powell than for any other potential candidate in the
1996 race. "Running as a Republican in a two-way race against Bill Clinton," the poll said, "Powell handily beats the sitting president, 54% to 39%."
Powell recalled that for three weeks after the tour, "I received a huge volume of mail encouraging
me to run. 'Powell for President' committees sprang up all over." Powell admitted being "desperately torn." His wife, in contrast, "remained unalterably opposed." After deep soul-searching, Powell concluded that "the calling was not there."
Source: What Obama Means, by Jabari Asim, p. 89-90
, Jan 20, 2009
1996: Considered for V.P. by Bob Dole
Warren Rudman, former N.H. senator, believed Dole had to face up to and forthrightly address his largest handicap: his age. So Rudman decided he would try to find Dole a young running mate who was fully qualified to govern the country.
In 1994, Rudman arranged to have lunch with Colin Powell. "There are two ways for you to become president." First, Powell could run in either party--the Republican, Rudman hoped--or as an independent, which would be difficult, almost impossible.
Second, there was an easier way. Become Dole's running mate, and Dole would pledge to run for only one term.
If the Dole-Powell ticket won, the presidency would likely be Powell's, for two full terms. If something happened to Dole, it would be
Powell's sooner. Rudman said he had done some research. As vice president, Powell could also serve as Secretary of State. He just couldn't receive two salaries. [No deal was made].
Source: The Choice, by Bob Woodward, p. 42-44
, Nov 1, 2005
Op-Ed: easier to win presidency than to win GOP primary
In 1995, General Colin Powell, newly resplendent in his post-Gulf War prestige, published his memoirs just as the pre-primary process for the 1996 GOP nomination to oppose Clinton was gathering steam. Clinton was panicked.
For a while,
Powell seemed unstoppable. As he careened from one packed book signing to the next, his name soared to the top of all the presidential polls. Enigmatically, he would not address the possibility that he might run in 1996. Clinton worried about how to run
against a phantom, a creation of popularity, rather than the product of a conventional political surge.
Then came the bad news: Powell could not beat Dole in a GOP primary. His support for affirmative action, gun control, and an array of liberal
positions undermined him and left him without a party. “Congratulations,” I told Clinton after showing him the poll demonstrating that Powell would not get the nomination--and therefore, I said, would not run. “You just won the election.” Clinton nodded.
Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p. 19-20
, Oct 11, 2005
America’s Promise: keep “The Five Promises” to children
Powell says, “We cannot provide all our young people with idyllic childhoods, as much as we would like to do so. But we can - and we must- provide them with the minimum requirements they need to grow up into self-supporting and contributing members
of society. We do this by keeping the Five Promises.”
Many communities across the country are now mobilizing to fulfill these Five Promises for children and youth: These Five Promises contain
the seeds for a national movement capable of advancing the health and well-being of the next generation. But, we all must take responsibility and get involved to make this a reality.
Source: America’s Promise Web Page
, Jan 8, 2001
- Ongoing relationships with caring adults - parents, mentors, tutors or
- Safe places with structured activities during nonschool hours;
- Healthy start and future;
- Marketable skills through effective education; and
- Opportunities to give back through community service.
With GOP on economy; wants bipartisanship on social issues
I am voting for our Republican team, and I urge you to do so as well. We have offered a positive vision of hope, opportunity and common sense reform. We have forthrightly addressed the big issues: education, Social Security, access to quality health
care for all Americans, tax relief, and a strong national defense.
At home, the economy is strong and the budget is balanced. A growing surplus provides the means to both cut taxes and finance important reforms. On education, Social Security and health
care, our Republican team is right and our opposition is wrong.
On the social issues that have divided our nation for so long, we are committed to forge a bi-partisan approach to solving America’s problems. We are committed to a future that leaves no
one behind. We believe individual liberty is rooted in personal responsibility.
The moral dimension of leadership respects the moral and religious foundations of our Republic. We trust the American people to manage their own lives.
Source: Pre-Election Message from Colin Powell, DuPage County GOP
, Nov 6, 2000
Raised poor, but rich in spirit & belief in America
Q: What basic message did you receive from your parents and what would you say were the keys to your success?
A: They raised two children to whom they gave a precious gift, a set of core beliefs. A value system founded on a clear understanding of the
difference between right and wrong and a belief in the Almighty. They taught us Integrity, kindness and Godliness were right. Lying, violence, intolerance, crime and drugs were wrong and, even worse than wrong, they were shameful. In my family we
were taught that hard work and education were the keys to success. My sister and I were taught to believe in ourselves. We might be considered poor, but we were rich in spirit. But, stick with it, because in America, justice will eventually triumph
and the powerful, searing promise of the founding fathers will come true. We were taught by my parents to always, always, always believe in America.
Source: Home Business Magazine interview, Bakersfield, CA
, Oct 11, 1997
Big Tent of GOP restores the American Dream
I became a Republican because I believe our party best represents the principles of freedom, opportunity, and limited government upon which our nation was founded. I became a Republican because I believe the policies of our party will lead to greater
economic growth. I became a Republican because I truly believe the federal government has become too large and too intrusive in our lives. I became a Republican because I believe America must remain the leader of the free world.
I became a Republican
because I want to help fill the big tent that our party has raised to attract all Americans. You all know that I believe in a woman’s right to choose and I strongly support affirmative action. And, I was invited here by my party to share my views with
you because we are a big enough party to disagree on individual issues and still work together for our common goal: restoring the American Dream. I am a Republican because I believe in that dream, and I believe we are the ones to keep it alive.
Source: Speech to the Republican National Convention
, Aug 12, 1996
Colin Powell’s 13 Rules of Life
Colin Powell’s 13 Rules of Life
Source: My American Journey, by Colin Powell
, Jan 1, 1996
- It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
- Get mad, and then get over it.
- Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
- It can be done!
- Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
- Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
- You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
- Check small things.
- Share credit.
- Remain calm. Be kind.
- Have a vision. Be demanding.
- Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
Believes America is ready for a black president
Powell believes that America is ready for a black president. "We really are at a point in our national life where we have progressed so far that it is possible for a black person to become President of the US."
Why all the hesitation, then? "I have not spent my whole adult life trying to reach the point where I could run for elected political office.
My whole life was spent in an entirely different direction, an entirely different possession, field--as a soldier. "This fall's 5-week book tour has been his opportunity to place his ideas before the people and to live under general scrutiny in a way
perhaps comparable to public life. "I will have to see whether or not I really have something to contribute that is unique and different from everyone else, and whether I have the passion to pursue that vision, and I don't know that yet," he still says.
Source: Powell & the American Dream, by Cummings&Rudnicki, p. 30-31
, Nov 1, 1995
In crisis,get facts out fast, even if they make you look bad
[As a military adviser in 1983], Powell had to deal with the downing by the Soviet Union of Korean Air Lines flight #007, a commercial jet liner full of civilian passengers. When the Soviets tried to pass off KAL 007 as a spy plane, they added falsehood
to what had been, at base, a tragic blunder.
Among the lessons Powell drew were: Don't be stampeded by first reports; don't let your judgments run ahead of your facts; and even with supposed facts, question them if they don't add up. "I also learned
that it is best to get the facts out as soon as possible, even when new facts contradict the old. Untidy truth is better than smooth lies that unravel in the end anyway. Be prepared to see an international event expand--or contract--for political ends."
Five years later, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian airbus, killing 290 passengers and crew. It was a tragic blunder, just as the downing of the KAL 007 had been. "We said so and released the facts publicly as fast as possible."
Source: Powell & the American Dream, by Cummings&Rudnicki, p. 162-3
, Nov 1, 1995
Keep options open for presidency, but not ready yet
Q: When are you going to announce that you’re running for President?
A: I’m honored and humbled. It’s a question I receive regularly, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life after my book is finished. I’m not a professional politician.
I was truly a soldier.
Even after working two years in the West Wing, there isn’t a single one of my White House friends from those days who could tell you today whether they think I’m a Republican or a Democrat. That was part of the code I lived with.
Now I’m trying to develop a political philosophy, just to be a good citizen, not necessarily to run for office. I want to keep the option of elective office open because I think I should do that. Why close off possibilities? I want to be of some service
to the nation in the future. I just don’t know if it will be an appointed office, charitable work, or educational work.
I don’t find a passion for politics. I don’t find that I have that calling for politics. But I want to keep the option open.
Source: John Stacks, Time Magazine
, Jul 10, 1995
Voted for Kennedy & Johnson on civil rights grounds
In 1960, while Powell was stationed in Germany, there was a presidential election, the first in which Powell was old enough to vote. He cast an absentee ballot for JFK. His result wasn’t the result of any in-depth analysis. It was simply that, “In those
days, he and his party seemed to hold out a little more hope for a young man of my roots.”
In 1964, stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, Powell pulled into a drive-in hamburger stand on Victory Drive. The waitress said she was not allowed to serve him,
but if he would go behind the restaurant, she would pass him a hamburger out the back window. [Powell left in anger. Later that year,] Pres. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing discrimination in places of public accomodation.
LBJ ran against Barry Goldwater, who had cast the lone vote in the Senate against the civil rights bill. Powell said, “I mailed my absentee ballot to my New York voting address. LBJ, all the way. And I treated myself to another burger on Victory Drive.”
Source: Colin Powell and the American Dream, p. 94-95 & 118-22
, Jul 2, 1995
Fiscal conservative & social conscience; neither party fits
To sum up my political philosophy, I am a fiscal conservative with a social conscience. I have found my philosophy, if not my political affiliation. Neither of the two major parties fits me comfortably in its present state.
Granted, politics is the art of compromise, but for now I prefer not to compromise just so I can say I belong to this or that party. I am troubled by the political passion of those on the extreme right who seem to claim divine wisdom on political
as well as spiritual matters. On the other side of the spectrum, I am put off by the patronizing liberals who claim to know what is best for society but devote little thought to who will eventually pay the bills.
I distrust rigid ideology
from any direction, and I am discovering that many Americans feel just as I do. The time may be at hand for a third major party to emerge to represent this sensible center of the American political spectrum.
Source: My American Journey, by Colin Powell, p. 592
, Jan 1, 1995
Would run with a vision; but doesn’t hear call yet
To be a successful politician requires a calling that I do not yet hear. I believe that I can serve my country in other ways, through charities, educational work, or appointive posts.
Nevertheless, I do not unequivocally rule out a political future.
If I ever do decide to enter politics, it will not be because of high popularity ratings in the polls. I am fully aware that in taking stands on issues, I would quickly alienate one interest group or another and burn off much popularity.
And I would certainly not run because I saw myself as the “Great Black Hope,” providing a role model for African-Americans or a symbol to whites of racism overcome. I would enter only because I had a vision for this country. I would enter because
I believed I could do a better job than the other candidates of solving the nation’s problems. I would not expect or desire to have anything handed to me; I would fight for the right to lead. And I would enter not to make a statement but to win.
Source: My American Journey, by Colin Powell, p. 593
, Jan 1, 1995
Made newly aware of heritage on trip to Nigeria
[On a tour of restored slave facilities in Nigeria], I felt something stirring in me that I had not thought much about before. The previous year, my wife and I had made the trip to Jamaica. Until now, roots, to me, had always meant the West Indies,
the homeland of my parents. But I now began to feel an earlier emotional pull, my link to Africa. Gazing down into those cattle pens for human beings, I could imagine the smells of packed bodies. A great-great grandfather of mine must have stood in
a place as horrible as this.
In my departure speech, I said, “I am the son of Jamaicans who emigrated to the US. But today, I am something more. I am an African too. I feel my roots, here in this continent.”
After the visit to Nigeria, my wife
and I headed home with a new awareness of our heritage. What we had witnessed was tragic, but also uplifting. It demonstrated, no matter how far down people are driven, how high they can rise when they are allowed to slip their chains and know freedom.
Source: My American Journey, by Colin Powell, p. 534
, Jan 1, 1995
Buffalo Soldiers: acknowledge black service in army history
In 1992, ten years after the idea had first struck me, the monument to the Buffalo Soldiers had become a reality. The Buffalo Soldiers, as they became known, were four “colored” regiments authorized after the Civil War. At the unveiling ceremony,
I reminded the audience that African-Americans had answered the country’s every call from its infancy. “Yet, the fame and fortune that were their just due never came. For their blood spent, lives lost, and battles won, they received nothing.
They went back to slavery, real or economic, consigned there by hate, prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance.“
Today, I pointed out, African-Americans were scaling the barriers, gaining overdue recognition: ”I am deeply mindful of the debt
I owe to those who went before me. I climbed on their backs. I challenge every young person here today: don’t forget their service and their sacrifice; and don’t forget our service and sacrifice, and climb on our backs.“
Source: My American Journey, by Colin Powell, p. 540-2 & p. 60
, Jan 1, 1995
Page last updated: Jan 13, 2017