Guest Post by Larry Kenny
Retired four-star general in the U.S. Army, former Secretary of State, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former National Security Advisor, Colin Powell is one of the most in-demand speakers in the world. His adages are heeded and his advice taken to heart by conservatives and liberals alike. Among the array of sayings and short quotations attributed to Powell, ten of the most incisive and insightful are the following, paired with brief commentary on each:
# 10 “Get mad, then get over it.”
Those who know Powell say this attitude is what got him to the top. He does not hold grudges, just gets the job done and moves on to the next challenge.
# 9 “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
This single sentence is the general’s closest approach to New Age philosophy, with a twist of Dale Carnegie thrown in for good measure. Seriously, though, how could anyone have fought the battles Powell has fought and done so without a dynamically positive attitude?
# 8 “Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.”
This aphorism could work as part two of the previous quote about optimism. Powell is old enough to remember the classic Bing Crosby song about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. (“And don’t mess with Mister In-between,” so the lyrics went).
# 7 “Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up.”
One has to believe that this statement is a conclusion reached by the philosopher-general in retirement, as he considers the wide span of his life’s work.
# 6 “I was born in Harlem, raised in the South Bronx, went to public school, got out of public college, went into the Army, and then I just stuck with it.”
One of Powell’s most repeated quotes, this is his belief system, in a nutshell, a restatement of similar “hang in there” adages. Against the backdrop of his unique life, however, it has almost become his signature phrase.
# 5 “It’s nice to say let’s be bipartisan. But we’re a partisan nation. We were raised as a partisan nation.”
Here is Powell the realist, showing the political acumen that so many military greats, like MacArthur and Pershing, sadly lacked.
# 4 “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
This is Powellese for, “It looked good on paper, but we’re not on the paper anymore!”
# 3 “Experts often possess more data than judgment.”
The practical, field-tested general knows malarkey when he smells it, and invariably relies on wisdom derived from real-world experience.
# 2 “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life giving speeches.”
Fortunately, General Powell will not fade away, but will always be engaged in public policy and current affairs.
# 1 “Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.”
This statement could be Colin Powell’s epitaph. It is a perfect molecule of his attitude toward practicality.
For more about one of America’s most famous statesmen, the definitive biography of Powell is entitled, “Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell,” by Karen DeYoung. It is available at bookstores worldwide.
What are your favorite Colin Powell quotes? Just leave your comments below. Thank you.