Middle East

A Look at Colin Powell...a man like no other

" 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 has become not only a national figurehead for his dedication to his country, but the barriers he breached as being the first Black to serve as assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and every position after that.

His Childhood and College
Colin Luther Powell was born of two Jamaican immigrants in Harlem, New York in 1937. Powell would grow up in the South Bronx and graduate from high school with no set direction in his life. He found that direction when he attended the City College of New York to study Geology and ended up joining the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) there. Powell would rise quickly as he became commander of the drill term and graduated at the top of his class in 1958. Powell commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and went off to Infantry Officer's Basic Training.

The Army
Powell was sent as a military advisor to South Vietnam in 1962 and would be wounded in 1963 by a booby trap. He would be awarded the Purple Heart and then later a Bronze Star for his actions. Powell would served a second tour from 1968-1969, where he would once again be injured. This time a helicopter crashed and he was able to rescue the rest of his soldiers from theColin Powell burning helicopter and received the Soldier's Medal. By the end, Powell had received 11 military decorations, including the Legion of Merit.

The Road to the White House          
Powell would return to school to earn his MBA at George Washington University and soon be promoted to Major. Upon his promotion Powell won a White House fellowship and worked in the Office of Management and Budget under President Nixon.  As a colonel, Powell returned to the Army and served as a battalion commander in Korea. After studying at the Army War College he was promoted to Brigadier General and took command of a brigade at the 101st Airborne Division. Under President Carter, Powell would serve as an assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy. As a Major General, Powell was an assistant commander and deputy commander of infantry division; and would soon return to Washington to be the senior military assistant to the Secretary of Defense.

In 1986, Powell stepped away from the White House to once again take command of the Fifth Corps in Germany. His time would be short-lived as he was quickly called back by National Security Advisor, Frank Carlucci, to serve as his deputy. One year later, Carlucci would be appointed as Secretary of Defense and Lieutenant General Powell became the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs under President Reagan. Promoted to four-star General in 1989, Powell would become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H. W. Bush and become national figurehead during Operation Desert Storm. Powell would soon retire from the military under President Clinton. In 2001, he was sworn in as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush and would serve in this capacity until 2004.

*Research done using the link below.


  • Blacks were finally considered as full and equal partners
  • General Colin L. Powell became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989 (the highest military position)
  • 1997: 30% Sergeants Major blacks were , 11% of officers were black, and 7% of Generals were black; among the armed forces the Army has the highest percentage of African-Americans in service.
  • Black soldiers were seen as heroes and decorated with medals and honors
  • WWII-Blacks did not receive any of the 300 Medals of Honor awarded-7 blacks would be awarded Medals of Honor in the mid 1990s for their actions during WWII