For over 50 years, General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) has devoted his life to public service. Having held
senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations, Powell’s deep
commitment to democratic values and freedom has been felt throughout the world.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was born in Harlem in April 1937 and was raised in the South
Bronx. He was educated in the New York City public schools and attended the City College of New York
where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. It was not until he joined the Army ROTC
program at CCNY that he discovered his calling and launched his military career. He received a
commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in 1958 and went on to serve in the United
States Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of Four-Star General.
From 1987–1989 Powell served as President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor. He served from
1989–1993 as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both President George H.W. Bush and for
President Bill Clinton, and was not only the youngest officer and first ROTC graduate to ever serve in the
position, but also was the first African American to do so. During his time as chairman, he oversaw 28
crises to include the Panama intervention of 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the victorious 1991
Persian Gulf War.
Under President George W. Bush, Powell was appointed the 65th Secretary of State and was
unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As Secretary of State, he led the State Department in major
efforts to address and solve regional and civil conflicts. He used the power of diplomacy to build trust,
forge alliances and then help transform these unstable regions into areas where societies and cultures
have the potential to prosper. He also worked at the forefront of American efforts to advance economic
and social development worldwide.
Among the many U.S. Military awards and decorations Powell has received are the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service
Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. His civil awards include two
Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service
Medal. In addition, he has received awards from over two-dozen countries to include a French Legion of Honor and an honorary knighthood bestowed
by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Powell is the chair of the Board of Visitors of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at
his alma mater, the City College of New York (CCNY), which was inaugurated in May 2013. He also has
nine elementary and middle schools named after him. He is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the
America’s Promise Alliance, dedicated to forging a strong and effective partnership alliance committed to seeing that children have the fundamental
resources they need to succeed.
Powell is a strategic adviser at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the renowned Silicon Valley venture
capital firm. He serves on the Board of Directors of Bloom Energy, an alternative energy company that
provides unique on-site power generation systems utilizing an innovative new fuel cell technology. In
March 2014, he joined the Board of Directors of Salesforce.com, the world’s largest provider of Cloudbased customer relationship management software.
He was previously on the boards of AOL, Gulfstream, Howard University, the United Negro College Fund,
and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Powell serves on the Museum Council of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History
and Culture, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
His autobiography, My American Journey, was a New York Times best seller and has been published in
more than a dozen different languages. Powell's second book, It Worked for Me: In Life & Leadership
(May 2012), was an instant New York Times best seller as well and reveals the lessons that shaped his life and career.
Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. They live in McLean,
Virginia and have three children and four grandchildren.