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Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Colin Powell. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.

Wikipedia Summary for Colin Powell

Colin Luther Powell (born April 5, 1937) is an American politician, diplomat and retired four-star general who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. Powell was the first African-American Secretary of State. Prior to the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, Powell and his successor, Condoleezza Rice, were the highest-ranking African Americans in the history of the federal executive branch (by virtue of the Secretary of State standing fourth in the presidential line of succession). Powell served as the 16th United States National Security Advisor from 1987 to 1989 and as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.

Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. Powell was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from the City College of New York (CCNY), where he earned a bachelor's degree in geology. He also participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958. Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held many command and staff positions and rose to the rank of four-star general. He was Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command in 1989.

His last assignment, from October 1989 to September 1993, was as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq in 1990–1991. He formulated the Powell Doctrine which limits American military action unless it satisfies criteria regarding American national security interests, overwhelming force, and widespread public support. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under Republican President George W. Bush. His term was highly controversial regarding his inaccurate justification for America's Iraq War in 2003. He was fired after Bush was reelected in 2004.

In retirement, Powell wrote his autobiography, My American Journey. He pursued a career as a public speaker, addressing audiences across the country and abroad. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of State, Powell was the chairman of America's Promise – The Alliance for Youth, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of young people. Powell is the recipient of numerous U.S. and foreign military awards and decorations. Powell's civilian awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (twice), the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. Several schools and other institutions have been named in his honor and he holds honorary degrees from universities and colleges across the country. In 2016, while not a candidate for that year's election, Powell received three electoral votes for the office of President of the United States.

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

--Colin Powell

Longer Version:

There are no secrets to success: don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.


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.

--Colin Powell

The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above-average effort.

--Colin Powell

Excellence is not an exception; it is a prevailing attitude.

--Colin Powell

In the last several years, I have been troubled by the right shift of the Republican party too far to the right.

--Colin Powell

President Assad, I worked with. I know him reasonably well, met with him a few times, and he's a liar.

--Colin Powell

You're not just voting for an individual, in my judgment, you're voting for an agenda. You're voting for a platform. You're voting for a political philosophy.

--Colin Powell

Standing in support of children is something we should all be able to get behind, regardless of party affiliation.

--Colin Powell

It takes more courage to send men into battle than to fight the battle yourself.

--Colin Powell

First you train the followers to accomplish the mission. Second, you resource them: Make sure that they have the tools to do the job. Third, you reward them: You give them medals or bonuses.

--Colin Powell

The most effective means of ensuring the government's accountability to the people is an aggressive, free, challenging, untrusting press.

--Colin Powell

Look at the world. There is no pure competitor to the United States of America.

--Colin Powell

You have to make sure you know why you are going to war and then use decisive force to end it as soon as possible.

--Colin Powell

Pissing people off doesn't mean you're doing the right things, but doing the right things will almost inevitably piss people off.

--Colin Powell

Trust is the glue that holds an org together and the lubricant that moves it forward.

--Colin Powell

When you wrestle with a pig, he has fun, and you just end up dirty.

--Colin Powell

When Jerry Springer thinks you've gone too far, my friends, you have gone too far.

--Colin Powell

I was taught to think about mission and people. Mission. What are you trying to accomplish? Don't do anything until you know what the mission is. Drilled into our hearts and into our heads.

--Colin Powell

Even the greatest of all strategists must occasionally take into account the presence of an enemy.

--Colin Powell

I think you can improve on that natural ability with training and exposure to great leaders of the past and to management theories.

--Colin Powell

As a leader you set the tone for your entire team. Communicate your vision.

--Colin Powell

I'm sleeping like a baby, too. Every two hours, I wake up, screaming.

--Colin Powell

I happen to hold a bachelor of science degree in geology... And my greatest contribution to the field of science is that I never entered it.

--Colin Powell

The United Nations will spearhead our efforts to manage the new conflicts (that afflict our world)... Yes the principles of the United Nations Charter are worth our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

--Colin Powell

People have asked me, 'What would you have done if you hadn't gone into the Army?' I'd say I'd probably be a bus driver. I don't know.

--Colin Powell

The bottom line in all of it is that, in life, it's all about people.

--Colin Powell

Leaders honor their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them.

--Colin Powell

What we have to find is the right level of regulation of our financial system so that it has the incentive to invest in things, but at the same time, it is sufficiently regulated so it can't get in the kind of trouble that we have seen in the past and we have seen recently.

--Colin Powell

One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.

--Colin Powell

You know you're a good leader when people follow you out of curiosity.

--Colin Powell

So like any football or basketball coach, you always always believe you're going to win.

--Colin Powell

There are a lot of bigger issues we have to be worrying about with respect to our relationship to China, and the longer they drag out the situation, the more difficult it is to get this relationship back on track.

--Colin Powell

All values are important, everyone who has ever touched my life in some way was a mentor for good or bad. Life is a blend, and a person is a blend of all the influences that have touched their lives.

--Colin Powell

Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so just because you might not like what you find.

--Colin Powell

When I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I would still have junior officers brief me. Usually these people knew more about the subject we were discussing than I did. I had to make sure that they felt confident enough to tell me everything they believed.

--Colin Powell

All nations that are civilized and do not accept this kind of action as representing any sort of legitimate political cause are coming together to fight these terrorists.

--Colin Powell

Foe means enemy. Now, will we have differences of opinion with the Russians? Yes. Will they get mad at us from time to time, and we get mad at them? That's part of the normal diplomatic relations.

--Colin Powell

Don't just show kindness in passing or to be courteous. Show it in depth, show it with passion, and expect nothing in return. Kindness is not just about being nice; it's about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect.

--Colin Powell

Just hit my 75th birthday, I'm feeling great!

--Colin Powell

You have to create circumstances where your first-tier leader knows what you are trying to accomplish, because he is the one who's going to get it done.

--Colin Powell

I have never seen a good organization where the standards weren't high.

--Colin Powell

Leadership is all about people. It is not about organizations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centered.

--Colin Powell

When you help the poorest in the world, you start to move them up an economic and social ladder, and they're not going to be moving toward violence or terrorism of the kind that we worry about.

--Colin Powell

You have to comply, you have to obey -- or you'd better resign and leave. But that is also the mark of a great leader -- somebody who, in the presence of inner conflict, will do the right thing.

--Colin Powell

No matter how significant or life-changing your greatest hit or miss might be, neither even begins to define who you are. Each of us is a product of all our experiences and all our interactions with other people. To cite calculus, we are the area under the curve.

--Colin Powell

My responsibility, our responsibility as lucky Americans, is to try to give back to this country as much as it has given us, as we continue our American journey together.

--Colin Powell

Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.

--Colin Powell

I think leadership is both a trained thing and a natural gift.

--Colin Powell

The media only report stupid or careless answers, not stupid or unfair questions.

--Colin Powell

Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.

--Colin Powell

We are not sure to what extent Saddam's Hussein own people were conveying an incorrect picture to him. But this body of evidence was believed not only by President George W. Bush. President Bill Clinton used that same body of intelligence before bombing Iraq in 1998.

--Colin Powell

I don't know who all of his advisers are, but I've seen some of the names and some of them are quite far to the right. And sometimes they might be in a position to make judgments or recommendations to the candidate that should get a second thought.

--Colin Powell

Finding the Russian scientists may be a problem being that Russia does not have a Social Security System, as here in America, that allows us to monitor, track down and capture an American citizen.

--Colin Powell

I went to graduate school as a lieutenant colonel after I had been in the army for 12 or 13 years. I learned so much from all the great management theorists. It gave me a greater understanding of my army experience and showed me the gaps in my knowledge.

--Colin Powell

I would sit and talk to any president who wishes to talk to me, but I'm not anxious to rule it in.

--Colin Powell

Another rule I have is: Don't let your ego get tied up in a policy dispute. Otherwise, if things don't go your way, you can end up breaking a relationship with somebody with whom you can't afford to break.

--Colin Powell


There is a war on terror that must be fought. Nobody's immune... And so rather than finding fault with what Spain has done by being aggressive in the war on terror, this should redouble everyone's efforts to go after terrorist organizations of any kind... Terror has to be brought to an end.

--Colin Powell

I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass destruction.

--Colin Powell

People get work done, not buildings, not staffs in a generic sense, and not plans, but people.

--Colin Powell

We have to be on guard that we don't spend so much time worrying about terrorism and guarding ourselves that we start to lose the essence of who we are as an open, freedom-loving people, welcoming to the rest of the world.

--Colin Powell


Saddam Hussein has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.

--Colin Powell

I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We're just getting it just now.

--Colin Powell

I think all of the attention of the world, to include the attention of the Arab world, should be on Saddam Hussein and whether or not he is prepared to give up the weapons of mass destruction that he has used to terrorise the region.

--Colin Powell

Policies that emanate from ivory towers often have an adverse impact on the people out in the field who are fighting the wars or bringing in the revenues.

--Colin Powell

The Court is perhaps one of the last citadels of jealously preserved individualism. For the most part, we function as nine, small independent law firms.

--Colin Powell

As I've thought about gay marriage, I don't see any reason not to say that couples should be able to get married.

--Colin Powell

Failure is a part of life and you have to learn to deal with it. Failure is something that is part of life's cycle and it's from failure that you gain life experience.

--Colin Powell

Trump has no sense of shame.

--Colin Powell

The claims made about Iraq's WMD capabilities before the invasion were inaccurate, wrong, and in some cases, deliberately misleading.

--Colin Powell

What could be more important than equipping the next generation with the character and competence they need to become successful.

--Colin Powell

I think that military, corporate, and non-political organizations are pretty much similar.

--Colin Powell

A sense of shame is not a bad moral compass.

--Colin Powell

The United States-Israeli relationship is based on the broadest conception of American national interest in which our two nations are bound forever together by common democratic values and traditions. This will never change.

--Colin Powell

It isn't enough just to scream at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. We need our political system to start reflecting this anger back into, 'How do we fix it? How do we get the economy going again?'

--Colin Powell

President Kennedy didn't negotiate out of the Cuban missile crisis simply because he and Khrushchev got along well. Khrushchev didn't have the cards.

--Colin Powell

We have practiced diplomacy since the very beginning of the nation. Sometimes it has not worked, and we've had to go to war. I always believe you should try to find peace and reconciliation before conflict. That has been the approach I've taken.

--Colin Powell

Russia isn't going to start a war. They can't afford it. I think Mr. Putin can be dealt with if we stop screaming at him. You can work with the guy. You just have to know who he is.

--Colin Powell

Engineering didn't take to me. And what saved me and kept me in college was I ran into ROTC cadets who were in a fraternity called The Pershing Rifles. And I found my place. I found discipline. I found structure. I found people that were like me and I liked.

--Colin Powell

You need to understand, if you take out a government, take out a regime, guess who becomes the government and regime and is responsible for the country? You are. So if you break it, you own it.

--Colin Powell

It was President Bill Clinton and the United States congress in 1998 which said that the regime has to be changed because the regime would not give up its weapons of mass destruction. We came into office in 2001 and kept that policy because Saddam Hussein had not changed.

--Colin Powell

It is not our place to decide who should lead the Iraqi people. If Saddam Hussein leaves or has to be forced out of power and a new regime brought in, a new leadership brought in, I am confident it will be some combination of people inside the country and outside the country.

--Colin Powell

It's not just a matter of whether you support Obama or Romney. It's who they have coming with them. I always keep my powder dry, as they say in the military.

--Colin Powell

Leadership is solving problems.

--Colin Powell

Longer Version:

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.


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