The Kennedy Center

General Colin Powell



Biography

One of the most respected statesmen in U.S. history, General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) has appeared in the National Memorial Day Concert multiple times from 1991 to 2007. General Powell became the 65th Secretary of State in January 2001 and served in that role until January 2005. Before becoming Secretary of State, Powell served as a key aide to the Secretary of Defense and as National Security Advisor to President Reagan. He also served 35 years in the United States Army, rising to the rank of Four-Star General and serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993). During this time, he oversaw 28 crises including the Panama intervention of 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He went on to lead the State Department in major efforts to solve regional and civil conflicts—in the Middle East; in Sudan, Congo and Liberia; in the Balkans, Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Born in New York City on April 5, 1937, General Powell was raised in the South Bronx. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. General Powell was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from Morris High School and 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. His further academic achievements include a Master of Business Administration degree from George Washington University. General Powell is the recipient of numerous U.S. military awards and decorations including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. General Powell's civilian awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President's Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. He has received awards from over two-dozen countries including a French Legion of Honor and an honorary knighthood bestowed by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. General Powell is the author of the best-selling autobiography My American Journey.
General Colin Powell