Colin Powell: The Meeting Hell Always Remember | Reader's Digest

Colin Powell: The Meeting He’ll Always Remember

By Diane Dragan

In case you missed it, from our July/August issue: Colin Powell reflects on the wisdom he’s gained from his years of public service and the values that sustained him in tumultuous times, in an excerpt from his book It Worked for Me.

One way to see the greatness of our country, Powell believes, is through the eyes of young adults who come to America as part of student-exchange programs. “You never can tell what kids are really seeing (much less control it), but they are always seeing and always judging. If we can provide them with rich enough experiences, they’ll take away something good that they can use to make their own and other peoples’ lives better.”

Read the story in his own words »

Also worth a look: At a book signing at Fort Hood, Powell talks openly about the life lessons he’s learned and his 13 rules for living. One favorite? “It’s always better in the morning.”

  • Colin Powell: The Meeting He’ll Always Remember

    Former secretary of state Colin Powell recalls two young visitors who sharpened his vision of our country’s greatness.

    By Colin Powell from "It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership"

    Colin Powell: The Meeting He’ll Always Remember
    We walked past the receptionists and right into the Oval Office, and there was President Bush waiting for us. The boys were amazed. There was small talk to break the ice. And then in a moment I will never forget, President Bush talked briefly but openly about his own onetime alcohol addiction and how he had overcome it and gone on to create a new life, which eventually led to the Oval Office. After we left, I took the two speechless young men back to my office. Their lives were changed. Back in Britain, they spread the word about this marvelous experience and the wonderful, kind, and generous people they had met.

    The State Department has several youth-exchange programs. One of them, Youth Ambassadors, began in Brazil and was then exported to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and throughout the region. High school students come to the United States for a few weeks, meet important people, see the sights, and take their impressions home.

    In the winter of 2002, I received in my office a group of Brazilian YA students. We had a nice chat, but I could tell they were edgy. It had started to snow outside … their first-ever snowfall. Since getting outside in the snow obviously seemed far more exciting than spending time with me, I let them go early.

    Maybe a year later, I made a trip to Brazil. Curious about how the program had affected those kids, I asked our ambassador, John Danilovich, a great guy, to round them up so I could chat with them.

    John located them, and we assembled in the backyard of his residence. The kids filled us in on their lives and their plans for the future. Since they were a highly select group, they had expectations of future success—like owning companies or becoming their country’s president. I asked them if they had enjoyed the United States. I wanted to know if anything had surprised them or made them especially happy or especially sad.

    There were some questioning looks, but that didn’t last long—they were teenagers.

    A young man raised his hand. “One day we were having lunch at a school,” he said, “and I was surprised, very surprised, when the American students laughed at me because I put ketchup on my pizza.”

    “Most Americans think pizza comes with a sufficient quantity of tomato paste,” I explained kindly, doing my best not to smile.

    Another young man quickly followed up. “I couldn’t believe,” he said with an expression of comic disgust, “that they served milk with pizza.”

    I again suppressed a smile. Time didn’t permit an exposition about the place of the dairy lobby in the American political system.

    Then a young girl tentatively raised her hand. “Let me tell you what happened to us in Chicago,” she said.

    Uh-oh, I thought.

  • Your Comments

    • Mar_june001

      can i writ it sa home readng?

    • Rusty

      The museings of the great uneducated and unwashed in many cases are always good entertainent. Get a grip and loosen up.

    • harrybrowne

      Ah yes, Colin Powell. The great hero. The man who covered up the My Lai massacre and who has been the bagman for many presidents, covering up dirty deeds. A fraud and a liar. Suckering a lot of people.

    • Svbala

      Disgusting propaganda.. if USA wants to show that they are kind, let that animal get away from other countries. Sons of Satan. Devil in the human form. The root cause of all the evil of the world is american selfish agenda..

      • Asgerard69

        I love my country, where we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

        • harrybrowne

           Really, you have freedom of speech? Can you say the n-word? Can you call a cop a pig? There are laws against “hate” speech. Why should there be?

          Get a clue, you lemming.

          • gigi94

            oh you mean you wouldn’t someone calling you a pathetic little bi*** all the time? cause that’s totally doable. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/eahfu.baou Eahfu Baou

          Yes, a freedom which relies on slaughtering innocent people around the world. Wake up America! The economy has relied on military expenditures, justified by unjust wars, for the last 60 years. That is indeed evil…

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/TTCNYCWIDR6NWDFWPRAZ7R5DDE Chief

        Thank you for your comments.  The best part of this country is that we have the freedoms to speak our mind.  Congratulations to you for doing so.  It makes me feel good to know that I spent 20 years in the Navy protecting the rights of everyone.  Having said that, I’ll exercise mine.  If you live in the United States., LEAVE!  If you don’t, DON’T COME HERE to live.  And, if you don’t live here, you can shove your remarks up the best part of your rectum.  Better yet, maybe God will expedite your trip to meet 72 virgins. 

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/TTCNYCWIDR6NWDFWPRAZ7R5DDE Chief

         Thank you for your comments.  The best part of this country is that we
        have the freedoms to speak our mind.  Congratulations to you for doing
        so.  It makes me feel good to know that I spent 20 years in the Navy
        protecting the rights of everyone.  Having said that, I’ll exercise
        mine.  If you live in the United States., LEAVE!  If you don’t, DON’T
        COME HERE to live.  And, if you don’t live here, you can shove your
        remarks up the best part of your rectum.  Better yet, maybe God will
        expedite your trip to meet 72 virgins. 

      • Trotline

        Really?  THE root cause of ALL the evil?  I think the Koran has a different view, as does the Bible, the Talmud, the Bhagadad Gita, and others.  And while the USA cures diseases, heals the sick, tends the injured, feeds, clothes and cares for the worlds needs…What have you done?  Quit blaming and start helping….get busy doing good and solving problems and you won’t have the time or energy to blame others.  We await your response.