Colin Powell: The Meeting He’ll Always Remember

By Diane Dragan from original

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 RememberCourest Eric Draper/George W. Bush Presidential Library
    “After a day of sightseeing, we went to a neighborhood restaurant,” the girl explained. “I think it was an Outback Steakhouse. After we ate and the check came, we added up our money. We were short. We weren’t used to paying with dollars. We couldn’t pay the bill.”

    There they were, a dozen unchaperoned Portuguese-speaking kids in a chain restaurant in Chicago imagining all the horrors that could befall foreigners who can’t pay. When the waitress came back, the kids told her that they couldn’t cover the check. She looked at them, gave a nod, and went away. They didn’t know what to expect.

    A few minutes later, she came back. “Don’t worry about the check,” she told them with a warm smile.

    “Will you have to make up the difference?” they asked, worried.

    “Oh, no,” she said, her smile broadening. “When I told the manager about your problem, he picked up the whole bill and gave me a message for you: ‘I’m glad you came to our restaurant and hope you enjoyed the meal. I’m glad you’re in our city and hope you enjoy your stay in America.’”

    They were stunned. They never expected such kindness.

    When the girl ended her story, the others remained silent. It had been a powerful experience for all of them. We had introduced them to congressmen, Cabinet secretaries, and other dignitaries, but a restaurant manager in Chicago made the strongest impression on them and gave them their most enduring memory of America.

    Another young lady raised her hand. “We were boarding the plane to leave Chicago,” she said. “After I sat down, a woman got in the seat next to me. ‘Excuse me,’ she said. I was confused. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I brushed against you when I took my seat. I hope I didn’t disturb you.’

    “I’ll never forget that,” she said.

    A simple courtesy that most of us would have forgotten before the beverage cart rolled down the aisle left an indelible impression on a young Brazilian girl. It’s hard to say why. Maybe she didn’t expect such obvious niceness here, or maybe she wasn’t used to that kind of gesture in Brazil. Whatever the reason, the moment has stayed with her.

    When they returned home, the YA alumni appeared on Brazilian media and became multipliers of goodwill, especially to young people. There are now alumni in every Brazilian state.

    None of the Young Ambassadors have so far become corporate big shots or their country’s president. But a few, like a student named Casio, stand out.

    When Casio returned to his small town, he decided to share his experience. “I realized the secret of my success was my mastery of English,” he told Danilovich, our ambassador. So Casio started his own language school called Backpack.

    “Branding is important,” Casio said. “You have to have a name they will remember.” He marketed his school on his own website and then went to the mayor of his town. “I’m going to start a language school that will help our town’s young people,” he told the mayor. “You should give me books for them.” The mayor gave him books.

    When Ambassador Danilovich heard this story, he realized that the embassy could help too. And the embassy also gave Casio books.

    Later, YA alumni who got into the University of Brasília began an entry-exam preparation program run by Casio to help economically disadvantaged students prep for the rigorous entry exam. The program charged ten reals, or about four dollars, for a semester of classes. “You cannot give it to them for free,” Casio explained. “They won’t appreciate it if it’s free.” Casio will have a brilliant future in marketing.

    The YA success is a State Department success (it breeds lots of goodwill), but it’s much more than that. It’s an American people success. Our own people are our best ambassadors and promoters.

    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.

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  • 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.