Colin Powell – America’s Soldier-Statesman

Colin Luther Powell was born in the Harlem district of New York City on April 5, 1937. Colin’s parents were Jamaican immigrants who stressed the importance of education and personal achievement. At the age of three, before Colin could establish any prejudices against other ethnic groups, his family moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx. The Bronx was a multicultural district. He grew up having no concept of being a different color than a white person or a Jewish person or a person of European descent or an Arab. A world filled with people of many colors was normal to him. Colin graduated from Morris High School and enrolled in City College of New York to study geology.

While attending City College of New York Colin, by his own account, found his calling. He joined the Reserves Officers Training Corps (ROTC). He became commander of his unit’s precision drill team and graduated in 1958 at the top of his ROTC class, with the rank of cadet colonel, the highest rank in the corps.

Colin Powell was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army when he enrolled in the Infantry Officer’s Basic Training following graduation. His commanding officers told him that it would take twenty years to become a Lieutenant Colonel. Colin worked hard and got there in sixteen years. He wanted to prove that the people of the world could do anything and that they had no limitations because of who they are.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work” – Colin Powell

In 1962 Colin married Alma Johnson. Together they have a son, Michael, and two daughters, Linda and Annemarie. That same year Second Lieutenant Colin Powell was one of the 16,000 military advisors sent to South Vietnam by President Kennedy. In 1963 he was wounded by a punji-stick booby trap while patrolling the Vietnamese border with Laos. He was awarded the Purple Heart and, later that year, the Bronze Star. Colin served a second tour of duty in Vietnam and was injured in a helicopter crash. Despite his own injuries, he rescued his own fellow soldiers from the burning chopper and was awarded the Soldier’s Medal. In all, he has received 11 military decorations, including the Legion of Merit.

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership” – Colin Powell

Colin Powell enrolled at George Washington University in Washington, DC in 1969. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1970 and earned his Master of Business Degree in 1971. Powell was promoted to Major and won a White House Fellowship. He was assigned to the Office of Management and Budget during the Nixon Administration. As a Colonel, Powell served as a battalion commander in Korea and had a staff job at the Pentagon. He studied at the Army War College, was promoted to Brigadier General, and commanded a Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. In the Carter Administration Powell was an assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and to the Secretary of Energy. He was promoted to Major General and served again in the Defense Department during the transition to the Reagan Administration.

In 1986, Powell left Washington to serve as commander of the Fifth Corps in Germany. A year later he was back in Washington as a General and became the Assistant to the President for National Affairs advising President Reagan during summit meetings with Soviet President Gorbachev. He was the first African American to serve in this position, as he has been in every office he has held since.

In 1989 Powell was promoted to Four Star General and named Commander in Chief of the U.S. Forces Command at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bus, General Powell became a national figure during the successful Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations. He continued as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the first months of President Clinton’s administration and retired from the military shortly thereafter.

In 2001, newly elected President George W. Bush appointed General Powell to be Secretary of State. Secretary Powell won praise for his efficient administration of the State Department and cordial relations with other governments. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Secretary Powell took a leading role in rallying America’s allies for military action in Afghanistan. Shortly after President G.W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, Secretary Powell stepped down as Secretary of State.

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” – Colin Powell

Jody Victor

Condoleezza Rice – First Female African-American U.S. Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in the neighborhood of Titusville. Condoleezza is the only child of Presbyterian Minister Reverend John Wesley Rice, Jr. and Angelina Ray. Reverend Rice was a guidance counselor at Ullman High School and the minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church, which was founded by his father. Her Mother, Angelina, was a science, music and oratory teacher at Ullman. H.S. Her name is derived from the Italian musical expression, Con dolcezza, which means “with sweetness”. Condoleezza started learning French, music, figure skating, and ballet at age three. At the age of 15 she began classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. Eventually she changed her plans when she realized that she could not support herself through music alone. She still practices often and plays with a chamber music group.

As a young African-American growing up in Birmingham, Condoleezza learned first-hand about the injustices of discriminatory laws and attitudes. She suffered through various instances of discrimination: being sent to a storage room at a department store instead of the regular dressing room; being barred from going to the circus or local amusement park; being denied hotel rooms; even being served bad food at restaurants. Her parents tried to keep her from areas where she might face discrimination but she was very aware of the civil rights struggle. A neighbor, Juliemma Smith, recalls how a young Condoleezza used to call her and ask her opinion about current events. Juliemma “would have to read the newspaper thoroughly because I wouldn’t know what she was talking about.”

During the very violent days of the Civil Rights Movement, Reverend Rice armed himself and kept guard over the house while Condoleezza practiced the piano inside. Reverend Rice instilled in her and his students that black people would have to prove themselves worthy of advancement and would have to be “twice as good” to overcome injustices built into the system. Condoleezza has said, “My parents were very strategic, I was going to be so well prepared, and I was going to do all of these things that were revered in white society so well, that I would be armored somehow from racism. I would be able to confront white society on its own terms.”

Condoleezza was eight when her schoolmate Denise McNair, aged 11, was killed in the bombing of the primarily African-American 16th Street Baptist Church by white supremacists on September 15, 1963. She has commented upon that moment in her life:

“I remember the bombing of that Sunday school at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. I did not see it happen, but I heard it happen, and I felt it happen, just a few blocks away at my father’s church. It is a sound that I will never forget, that will forever reverberate in my ears. That bomb took the lives of four young girls, including my friend and playmate, Denise McNair. The crime was calculated to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations. But those fears were not propelled forward, those terrorists failed.”

Condoleezza credits growing up during racial segregation taught her determination against adversity.

In 1967, the Rice family moved to Denver, Colorado. Condoleezza attended St. Mary’s Academy, a private all-girls Catholic high school in Cherry Hills Village and graduated in 1970. After studying piano at the Aspen Music Festival and School she enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father was an assistant dean and taught a class called “The Black Experience in America”. While at the University of Denver she attended a course on international politics taught by Josef Korbel, the father of future Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her experience with this class sparked her interest in the Soviet Union and international relations. She has called Josef Korbel “one of the most central figures in my life.” In 1974, at the age of 19, she earned her B.A. in political science, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver. In 1975, she earned her Masters Degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame and returned to Denver to earn her Ph.D. in Political Science in 1981 from their Graduate School of International Studies. Dr. Condoleezza Rice is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College, the University of Alabama, the University of Notre Dame, the National Defense University, the Mississippi College School of Law, the University of Louisville and Michigan State University.

With her expertise on Russia and Eastern Europe, Dr. Rice began teaching political science at Stanford University in 1981. In 1989 she was a Director at Chevron, heading their committee on public policy. Dr. Rice has also served on numerous boards of directors besides Chevron: Carnegie Corporation, Charles Schwab Corporation, Hewlett Packard Corporation, Rand Corporation and Trans America Corporation.

From 1989 to 1991 she advised President Herbert Walker Bush, Sr. as Senior Director of Soviet Affairs and as a Special Assistant on the National Security Council during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German Unification. In 1992 she founded the Center of New Generation, an after-school program created to raise high school graduation numbers in California. In 1993 she returned to Stanford and was named Provost, the university’s budget and academic official.

Dr. Rice took a leave of absence from Stanford in 1999 to advise the George W. Bush Presidential campaign. On January 15, 2001 she was named President Bush’s National Security Advisor and then on January 28, 2005 she was sworn in as the 66th Secretary of State. She is the first female African-American to hold the position. In 2004 and 2005 Secretary Rice was named the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine.

“The work that America and our allies have undertaken, and the sacrifices we have made, have been difficult, and necessary, and right. Now is the time to build on these achievements, to make the world safer, and to make the world more free. We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom. The time for diplomacy is now.”

Secretary Condoleezza Rice