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Review of Colin Powell: My American Journey Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 20th, 2019

General Colin Luther Powell was born in Harlem, New York City, in 1937 by immigrant parents from Jamaica and was well conversant with the rough street life and hardly overcame an average start at school. He was recruited in the United States Army after graduating from the City College of New York in 1958 and he rose quickly in ranks and became a General. “He was the chairman of the joint chief of staff under the tenure of both President Bill Clinton and President George Bush during the gulf war until he retired in September 30, 1993” (Powell and Persico, 53). He held the position of National Security Advisor from 1987 to 1989. Colin Powell was deeply involved in several missions such as Desert Storm, The Pentagon, Panama and Vietnam serving under George Bush. He became the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005) becoming the first Jamaican appointed to that position.

In the book ‘My American Journey’, it contains a moving and inspiring story of a life well lived. The book gives inspiration to its readers especially the young generations in light of recent disappointments by leaders in failing to adequately address their problems. In the book, Powell stress on accountability whereby he observes “the greatness of America and the opportunities it offers” which was a quote meant to encourage the youth on the greatness of America and the various opportunities available in America.

General Powell gives an honest review of his career which made him a core figure in United States most controversial events which occurred the 1980’s and 1990’s including the United States rescue mission in Somalia. He appreciates the impact his parent had on him during his childhood, the army and its leading authorities and predominantly his military advisers in influencing his principles. Powell who appreciates his legacy insists that he should be seen as an American first and not as a constituent of an ethnic/racial subgroup.

‘My American Journey’ vividly shows Powell’s individual principles and his solid conviction in the government’s role in the management of societal prejudice. He demonstrates with honesty, his achievements and mistakes and what he learnt from those circumstances of victory and adversity whereby he tells of how it occurred in a journal influenced by his love for his Nation and family, excellent wit and a soldier’s principals. Powell and Persico, (69) notes “Powel praised Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan and he spoke highly of Caspar Weinberger and Franc Carlucci of whom he served at the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget.”

General Powell narrates on different steps in his career and this gives an insight into the military administration hence showing how a current American armed force is an amiable place for the accomplishments of one’s ability. Widely spread all through the book is a system of behavior and sporadic incidents of meticulous kindness and prejudice. The book shows Powell growing up being mischievous, attending church services with his father, getting a job in a bottling plant and then he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). “As a soldier he was first posted to Germany where he was assigned to guard atomic cannon in addition, while in Vietnam he was wounded and in a surprising turn of his career, he ended up as a Pentagon aide in the Carter administration.” (Powell and Persico, 64)

In the book, it is evident how Powell handled humiliations inflicted on him as a member of the black race when he was a soldier travelling in the Deep South and the challenges he faced as a battalion commander in Korea from1973 to 1974 and he later commanded the second brigade. Powell and Persico (86) notes “It was in Korea where the army guarding the North Korea border was plagued by drugs, alcohol and racial tension.”

He also described the humiliation he experienced as a brilliant black soldier who had the will to serve his country when he was denied the use of Whites only restaurants and restrooms when he was off post, yet he persevered and excelled in his military tasks. Moreover, during his youthful years in the United States army, for him to earn recognition and rewards he had to perform twice as hard as compared to his white colleagues.

Colin Powell had encounters with President Bill Clinton on the controversial question concerning gays in the United States military and he said that “skin colour is not behavioral but sexual orientation is” (Powell and Persico, 46). He has a unique perspective as he easily moved between the army and high positions in both the Democratic and Republican administrations. He underwent the sharp end of political decisions in Washington when he was an active soldier.

He had seen how policy was shaped and he shaped it himself since he had acted as an advisor to three American presidents. Powell was recalled to the white house to help the National Security Advisor Franc Carlucci clean up the mess that had occurred after the Iran-contra debacle by President Reagan. After his retirement, he was called by President Clinton so as to accompany the former President of America, President Carter on his eve-of-war mission to Haiti. It was in Haiti that Powell’s translation from soldier to statesman and a popular leader had occurred. There was no African American who had achieved greater admiration and fame since the murder of the civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., than General Colin Powell. He rose to become one of America’s most prominent and influential leaders in the American public life.

General Powell’s book tell of his accounts from Bronx to Vietnam to the White House and from the common to the regal not leaving out his tales that revolved from peeling potatoes with the Soviet General Staff to striking a conversation with Queen Elizabeth of England. As the youngest officer and the first African American to be appointed as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, he handled “every issue from arms control to Bermuda tax treaties” (Powell and Persico, 126). Powell had a set of rules that governed his running of a meeting and also had a political philosophy. The book is not only filled with history but history with a vision including absorbing experiences. “The stirring, only-in –America story of one determined man’s journey from the south Bronx to directing the mightiest of military” (Excerpts from the Time, np).

General Colin Powell received numerous United States military awards and decorations including civilian awards that honored his public service and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice. He was also decorated by various governments and the Queen of England gave him an honorary of knighthood. He is often referred to as the incarnation of the American dream.

Colin Powell supported affirmative action that leveled the playing field without favoring any unsuited party because of his or her racial background and Powell wanted to equal opportunity for everyone without preferential treatment. After 35 years of service in the military he retired and had the opportunity to serve his third two year term as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff but he felt and thought it best to go and was sure his departure would not be mourned since President Clinton’s National Security was doing well.

General Colin Powel urged Americans to view themselves as a one big family, instead of hurting each other they should care, sacrifice and share with each other. He further advocated for America to get back on the can-do attitude to keep trying and undertake the risk of failing as a way to resolve the problems the United States had.

Works Cited

“Excerpts from My American Journey.” TIME. September 18, 1995. Web.

Powell, Colin and Persico, Joseph. My American Journey. Allentown, PA: Ballantine Group, 1995. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Review of Colin Powell: My American Journey." March 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/review-of-colin-powell-my-american-journey/.


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