- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

At an age when most Americans are looking toward a comfortable and secure future for themselves and their families, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is confronting two of the most serious crises the United States has faced in the past 50 years.
Between the war on terrorism and the powder keg in the Middle East, there was little time for reflection as Mr. Powell marked his 65th birthday on Friday.
"I'm not terribly sentimental about birthdays," he said in an interview. "We celebrated with a family dinner. But frankly, I don't feel any different at 65. Aging is part of living, and I'm not bothered by it.
"Every now and then, I realize that there are fewer years ahead, but that is also part of living. Most important is that I've been blessed with continued good health, a loving family and sincere friends."
Mr. Powell, a major player on the international scene, has a strong presence, a calm voice and a demeanor that inspires confidence and admiration in those who know him. He is not content to retire and enjoy leisure activities such as playing golf or fixing old Volvos. His attention and energy are focused on dealing with a troubled, dangerous world.
If he could relive his 65 years, Mr. Powell was asked, would he do anything differently?
"I never look back to see what I could do or might have done differently," he said. "I guess I'm a total pragmatist. I can't relive my life, not for one minute, so why reflect on that instead of thinking about today and tomorrow? Each day I do the best I can, and move on. I also learn from lessons of the past by improving on the present and future."
What are some of his regrets?
"Oh, what good are regrets? Regrets slow you down. Regrets cause you to fail to pay attention to the future. So I never log, count or inventory my regrets. I move on."
Mr. Powell has used his 65 years to break barriers. He has been a role model, not only for America's men and women in the armed forces, but also for millions of people the world over.
Since becoming America's 65th secretary of state on Jan. 20, 2001, he has visited 49 countries, including Russia, China, South Africa, Nigeria and most of the capitals in Europe and the Middle East.
The secretary's chief of staff, Bill Smullen, said Mr. Powell relies on intellect, integrity and instincts to get the job done.
"And that is coupled with a loyalty that works both ways to those he works for and who work for him," Mr. Smullen said. "It's an Army work ethic that works well for a man who has been a public servant for nearly 45 of his 65 years."
These qualities are used in the service of problem-solving, such as alleviating poverty around the world, as attested to, for example, by one who should know World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn.

Concern for the less fortunate
"I believe that Colin Powell has combined his capacity for effective management with a true understanding of global humanitarian issues," Mr. Wolfensohn said.
"In all that I have seen him do, he shows great sensitivity to the issue of poverty and to the concerns of those less fortunate than we are. I believe he acts in this way out of a sense of moral and ethical principles combined with an understanding that poverty anywhere is a domestic issue for the U.S. in this interdependent world in which we live."
Mr. Wolfensohn, a former chairman of the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, added: "I not only wish Colin Powell a happy birthday and many more, but I hope he will be able to give the world his sensitive and enlightened leadership for many more years."
Stuart Eizenstat, former deputy secretary of the Treasury and special representative of the president and secretary of state on Holocaust issues, expressed similar sentiments.
"I know, from my former State Department colleagues, that, in just over a year, Colin Powell has established himself among the career professionals as the most respected and admired secretary of state in a generation," he said.
"During the first six months of this Bush administration, when I continued to serve the State Department as senior adviser to implement our Holocaust agreements, I could always depend on his full support.
"In general, he has been an important ballast in this Bush administration's foreign policy, adding a significant element of wisdom and good judgment."
Mr. Powell was asked whether he has changed, in a personal or official manner, since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11.
"You know, that tragedy struck the U.S. and put us in a war," he replied. "I have been in wars before; and I knew what I had to do as secretary of state to pull together a coalition and take our case to the world.
"Today, almost seven months later, the greatest public diplomacy challenge is to take our case to the Muslim world."
Born April 5, l937, in the Harlem section of New York and raised in the south Bronx, Mr. Powell is the son of Jamaican immigrants whom he credits for his success.
In l971, he earned a master's degree in business administration from George Washington University. In l990, he returned to the university to receive an honorary doctorate of public service from its president, Stephen Trachtenberg.
"We take pride in watching one of our own graduates go from strength to strength," Mr. Trachtenberg said. "And Colin Powell is a splendid person."
As a White House fellow in 1972 and 1973, he worked in the Office of Management and Budget under directors Frank Carlucci and Caspar Weinberger. Mr. Powell also served as military assistant to Mr. Weinberger when he was secretary of defense.
Now chairman of Forbes magazine, Mr. Weinberger said, "It is hard to believe that Colin Powell is 65 years old, because he looks exactly the same as he did when I met him more than 30 years ago.
"He is extremely able. He frequently knew more about a meeting than anyone else there because he prepared himself so very well. He has extraordinary leadership qualities, and although his only real ambition was to lead the troops in the field, those leadership qualities brought on the numerous other things that came his way."
On Oct. 1, 1989, President Bush selected Mr. Powell as the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the first black and the youngest man to hold that office.
After the general's retirement, Mr. Bush told this writer, "He was the ideal chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He was always a soldier and advocate for a strong military, but his personal style, his decency and his sense of loyalty and honor make him great."

Serving four presidents
In recalling his relationships with the past four presidents, Mr. Powell said: "What a privilege it was for me to serve each of these presidents. I consider myself fortunate to have been given that opportunity. Each one is different. Each is totally committed to our nation and what it stands for."
In 1993, President Reagan presented Mr. Powell with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award for his "commitment to safeguard the freedoms and liberties of our nation and advance the spirit of these ideals worldwide."
In an interview soon after, Mr. Reagan described Mr. Powell as a man of the highest integrity, intelligence and skills.
"I came to know him as someone I could rely on as a steady and wise adviser," Mr. Reagan said. "Colin is a man of tremendous decency. I admire him for his depth of character and steady determination to work for what is right and good. He has served our country well and earned the respect of all who know him. I will always consider him a dear friend."
Thomas R. Pickering, senior vice president of Boeing Co. and an undersecretary of state in the Clinton administration, worked with Mr. Powell when he was ambassador to the United Nations during the Gulf war.
"No one has earned congratulations for his 65th birthday more than Colin Powell," said Mr. Pickering, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, Jordan, El Salvador and Nigeria. "He is a marvelous leader and is making a huge difference in American foreign policy from the Middle East to the Far East and from Russia to China."
In describing his philosophy of life, Mr. Powell said: "I strongly believe in living for today and preparing for tomorrow. I tell young people that the world is before them, that the only limitation to their success in the U.S. is that of their own dreams."
As to his secret for success, he puts it this way: "I still haven't found a secret for success, because there isn't one. But I would say perseverance, working hard, studying hard, liking people and being loyal tend to be traits for people who are successful.
"I have always worked extremely hard and been loyal to those for whom I worked, as well as to those who work for me. And like I did in school, or in the Army or in the Pentagon, or here at the Department of State, I diligently study the subject at hand, and I try to be well-prepared on all issues."

'Too much intolerance'
What sense does Colin Powell have about race relations in the United States today?
"My sense is that there is too much intolerance of one another," he said. "That has manifested itself in many ways and places in our colleges, workplaces and on the streets. Intolerance is destroying our communities. It is unfortunate when those who have suffered hate and cruelty turn their bitterness on one another. That violates every sense of what America is all about.
"If one brief lifetime of perseverance could pull down the Iron Curtain between the East and West, then our perseverance in America can bring down the iron curtain of hate that, in too many places, separates Americans from each other."
Prior to his current position, he was 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.
He also wrote a best-selling autobiography, "My American Journey," published seven years ago.
Talking about the obstacles he confronted in his climb to become the first black to reach the top in the military, Mr. Powell recalled, "The military is a very demanding profession," he said. "I was examined and screened at every level and in a thousand different ways over a period of 35 years. There was a process of reducing obstacles as I went through that.

Vision of the U.S. role
Mr. Powell has long had a vision of the United States and its role in the world.
"I'm not embarrassed to call America a superpower, because our power is one that underwrites peace in the world," he said in another interview almost nine years ago.
"When we have to go somewhere to use our power, we don't go to stay. We don't go to rule populations. We don't go to exploit anyone. We go to help, and we come home when we are done.
"Even after World War II, the only land we claimed from anyone was the land we needed to bury our honored dead. Because of who we are, we have an obligation to be a strong leader in the world."
How does Mr. Powell want to be remembered?
"I hope to be remembered as one who served his country faithfully and loyally," he said in last week's interview. "Also, I'd like to be remembered as one who raised a nice family and devoted much time to making a difference in other people's lives."

Trude B. Feldman, a longtime White House and State Department correspondent, has known Mr. Powell since the Nixon administration. She has interviewed every secretary of state since William P. Rogers.

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