Colin Powell

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Colin Powell

Colin Luther Powell (born 1937-04-05) was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving from 2001-01-20 to 2004-11-12. At the time, he was the highest ranking African American government official in the history of the United States.

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  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.


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  • "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
    • In answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement that the United States was engaged in "Empire Buidling"
  • "Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most."
    • Epigram from Thucydides kept in the office of General Colin Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • "Our strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it."
    • Remark made as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announcing the U.S. gulf war plan against Saddam Hussein’s army. Pentagon press briefing on 1991-1-23.
  • "There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more."
    • Remarks to the United Nations Security Council on 2003-02-05. [1]
  • In September 2005, Powell was asked about the Security Council speech during an interview with Barbara Walters and responded that it was a "blot" on his record. He went on to say, "it will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now." [2]
  • "The sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction ... And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq ... "
    • press remarks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Amre Moussa, Ittihadiya Palace, Cairo, 2001-02-24[3]
  • "You break it, you own it."
    • Secretary of State Colin Powell was quoted in Plan of Attack, a book in which he was a key source, as cautioning President Bush before the war that he would “own” Iraq, 2004-10-17 [4].
Colin Powell
  • "We want to see both sides not take unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking."
    • Powell to CNN International during a three-nation trip to Asia, 2004-10-27 [5].
  • "There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy."
    • Powell to Phoenix TV according to a State Department transcript, 2004-10-27 [6].
  • "This may sound a little improper, but when the Vice President and I are alone it's Colin and Dick."
  • "I'm sleeping like a baby, too. Every two hours, I wake up, screaming." (Upon hearing that President Bush was "sleeping like a baby" on the eve of war with Iraq.) [7]
  • "That's not really a number I'm terribly interested in."
    • Response to his estimated number of Iraqis killed during US invasion
  • "The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above-average effort."
  • "The policies — determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live — were an antidemocratic disgrace...I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed...managed to wangle slots in reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country."
    • "My American Journey", Colin Powell's autobiography
Colin Powell
  • "Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war [Vietnam], vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand."
    • "My American Journey", Colin Powell's autobiography
  • "Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible."
    • "The Powell Principles", (McGraw-Hill 2003)
  • "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off."
    • "The Powell Principles", (McGraw-Hill 2003)
  • "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."
    • "The Powell Principles", (McGraw-Hill 2003)
    • Echoing Aristotle's "Excellence then is not an act, but a habit."
  • "Every organization should tolerate rebels who tell the emperor he has no clothes."
    • "The Powell Principles", (McGraw-Hill 2003)
  • “Capital is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability. It shuns ignorance, disease and illiteracy. Capital goes where it is welcomed and where investors can be confident of a return on the resources they have put at risk. It goes to countries where women can work, children can read, and entrepreneurs can dream.”
    • Quoted by Ambassador Cameron R. Hume in a speech on U.S. Government Initiatives in South Africa at the American Chamber of Commerce, Johannesburg, South Africa September 18, 2002. [8]
  • "The First Amendment exists to ensure that freedom of speech and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree, but also that which we find outrageous."
    • Letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy [9]
  • "We also have to say to our Israeli friends that you have to do more to deal with the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people and you have to understand that a Palestinian state must be a real state, not a phony state that´s diced into a thousand different pieces."