General Colin Powell should be scary. He is a four star general in the US Army where he served for 35 years. He was the first African American to be on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan. He was Secretary of State for Bush 43’s first term. And he has a Purple Heart (this is the abridged version of his accomplishments, go here for the full). Mr. Powell should have scared the living daylights out of those who gathered to see him Sunday morning.
But he didn’t. In fact, he was one of the least scary individuals I’ve ever met. He’s well-spoken, amiable, humorous, thoughtful and kind. He shared with us (all 7,000 I might add) insights about his life that aren’t always well known. He had a 2.0 GPA and was a C average student in high school. His family didn’t always agree or understand his interest in the military. But it was because of those things that he is who he is today.
The overarching themes of the speech were these: know your weaknesses, to be a leader you must know your followers, and follow your passion. He commented a lot on the importance of being a leader. That the truly great leaders were those who knew what their followers wanted and always kept those in the first priority. It’s all about the followers. He also commended everyone who follows their passion. It’s those people who will be the most successful and will find their happiness.
Here’s what he had to say, in his own words
Advice for Clinton in Secretary of State
“Trust and use your correspondence personnel and foreign resources. They may not know their politics like you but they know their field.”
Strengths Powell sees in Clinton
“She’s got a backbone made of steel. And I commend that.” “She’s been in politics all her life”
“Two things. Keep sending aid to help. We need to curtail as much suffering as possible. Those people don’t need any more. And secondly, there needs to be an agreement between the two sides. No military in the world, including the United States, has the resources to send enough troops to protect Darfur. It’s the size of Texas.”
“After he was given information or intelligence, he used instinct.”
“A leader is a leader whether on the battlefield or in a class room. Believe in yourself. Have a vision and then find ways to achieve it.”