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If you like Colin Powell's story, you might also like:
Ehud Barak,
George Bush,
Benjamin Carson,
Tom Clancy,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Daniel Inouye,
William McRaven,
Rosa Parks,
David Petraeus,
Bill Russell,
Norman Schwarzkopf,
Alan Simpson,
Desmond Tutu
and Oprah Winfrey

Colin Powell can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Colin Powell also appears in the videos:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership,
What is a Leader?

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Colin Powell in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Justice & the Citizen
Black History Month

Related Links:
State Dept.
America's Promise
Powell School
Stanford Business

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Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Profile of Colin Powell Biography of Colin Powell Interview with Colin Powell Colin Powell Photo Gallery

Colin Powell Interview (page: 7 / 9)

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

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  Colin Powell

A lot of young people seem to feel a lack of control of their lives. And that's one of the reasons that they get into these desperate situations. They feel that they're somehow out of control.

Colin Powell: We do need to help them. It isn't just a matter of, you're on your own, young man/young lady. We need to give young people structure in their lives, discipline, give them a life space, put boundaries on them. And those boundaries, hopefully, will come from parents; or at least one parent, if both parents are not there.

Colin Powell Interview Photo
They also have to come from school, they have to come from churches, they have to come from the community in general. There can be no organized behavior, there can be no progress without structure to the environment. It worked for my kids, and we're working on a grandson now. As they start to get about, they want to know where the boundaries are. They want to know when they run into a wall.

Set the four walls up, and there will be a joy for everybody inside those four walls. When they don't know where the walls are, and they're constantly testing, you've got a problem, you've got an out-of-control situation. I think that applies not only to infants, but to all young people, until that point in their life where they can set their own walls up.

I've started to dedicate large parts of my time to working on the problems of America's young people. It has become my goal in life. Most of them are doing just fine, but we have millions of them who are not. We have millions of them who wonder if they'll ever survive past the age of 18 without having a bullet put in their back.

I've been to places in America, in one city in particular, where a teacher was telling me that the children come back on Monday morning weighing less than they did when they went home on Friday afternoon. They don't get proper nutrition, there's nobody really taking care of them. So there's a hole in their life for two days until they come back to school and start eating again. And that's in America.

Colin Powell Interview Photo
There are a lot of children in need, so I've started to work on that with the United Negro College Fund and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, I'm on the boards of those and a number of others. But the principal activity is through the chairmanship of America's Promise, the Alliance for Youth, where we're making promises to young people, we're creating alliances between the government, the private sector, the public sector to bring more resources in the lives of these children who are sometimes without hope. More mentors, safer places for them to learn and grow. Give them all a healthy start in life with vaccinations and proper nutrition and education against drugs and cigarettes.

A marketable skill for a youngster is as the economy goes upscale and the skill level goes upscale as the result of the information and technology revolutions. And finally, we're also trying to persuade youngsters to serve their community, and to begin that service as early as possible. Put service to others into their heart as a virtue.

So, America's Promise is taking most of my time. And we've got the symbol of this little red wagon that you see here, which we picked as a perfect symbol of a nostalgic childhood. Every boy and girl ought to have a little red wagon that can pull along a kid brother, a kid sister, a heavy load, a dream. A little red wagon that one day could be a rocket ship, or another day it could be an ocean liner, but it's there to help you make your way through life. And it comes with a nice long black handle, so that an adult can reach down, grab it and help you. That's the symbol of America's Promise. I'm trying to make sure that every child in America has a little red wagon.

I was just reading about America's Promise and there was a line in there that struck me, something about the era of the big citizen just beginning. What do you mean by that?

Colin Powell: We can't just sit around waiting for government to solve some of these intractable social problems that we've had for years. Government has a role to play. It is time for all of us to live up more fully to the concept of citizenship. And for those of us who as citizens of this nation have been blessed with treasure, and wealth, and good position, and comfortable homes, and all the blessings of this land, to be a good citizen, to be a big citizen, requires you to do more in the way of sharing with those who are in need. So that a family that has three wonderful children ought to try to see if they could find three hours a week to share that life with a kid in need who doesn't have a mentor, who doesn't get to play in Little League and do the other things that we take for granted. Somebody in that family who might go tutor a school on an afternoon off from a job, and we're encouraging corporations to give them that afternoon off. And so that's what we mean by big citizenship.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

Get involved with your local Boys and Girls Club, your scouting program, your YMCA program, your tutoring program, your mentoring program. Give more money to charities of your choice. But do more to share what you have gained from this country with others. Do it in a way where you're actually giving up something of yourself. What you usually get back in return is very, very warm and very, very rewarding. You feel good about what you've done, it makes you a better person. That's what the era of big citizenship is all about.

Your own career seems to have been an extraordinarily smooth path to the position you're in today, but I'm sure there were some disappointments along the way -- setbacks.

Colin Powell: No one has a perfect Army career that goes up non-stop without plateaus or even downturns.

Colin Powell: I've had problems in my career, I've had downturns. I've had people who thought I wasn't very good, and said so in writing. I've had assignments that didn't come along when I thought they should have come along. There have been several times in my career where I thought I had reached as high a level as I was going to reach, and had started to make alternative plans, when suddenly luck came along, and things changed, and so it just kept going.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

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This page last revised on May 15, 2012 14:45 EDT
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