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188 Inspiring Quotes by Colin Powell

  • Last updated Jul 27 2021

Welcome to our collection of quotes by Colin Powell.

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.


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Get mad, then get over it.

--Colin Powell

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You don't know what you can get away with until you try.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


white flowers

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


yellow flower field under clear sky

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.


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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


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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

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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

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Many interviewers when they come to talk to me, think they're being progressive by not mentioning in their stories any longer that I'm black. I tell them, 'Don't stop now. If I shot somebody you'd mention it.'

--Colin Powell

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Perpetual Optimism is a Force Multiplier.

--Colin Powell

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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


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

--Colin Powell

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We need to understand that we as citizens and as a government in any community throughout this country have no more important obligation than to educate those who are going to replace us.

--Colin Powell

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The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.

--Colin Powell

Longer Version:

The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise. In my experience, the people closest to the problems are often in the best position to see the solutions. The key here is to empower and not be the bottleneck.



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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



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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

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

--Colin Powell

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No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

--Colin Powell

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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


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In terms of the legal matter of creating a contract between two people that's called marriage, and allowing them to live together with the protection of law, it seems to me is the way we should be moving in this country.

--Colin Powell

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I don't think we handled the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad as well as we might have. But that's now history.

--Colin Powell




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Have a vision. Be demanding.

--Colin Powell

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If a leader doesn't convey passion and intensity then there will be no passion and intensity within the organization and they'll start to fall down and get depressed.

--Colin Powell

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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


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The ties that bind us are stronger than the occasional stresses that separate us.

--Colin Powell

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I was born in Harlem, raised in the South Bronx, went to public school, got out of public college, went into the Army, and then I just stuck with it.

--Colin Powell

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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

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For all the hardship, I was still excited to be on the trail, testing my endurance, feeling especially alive as strength and fatigue flowed alternately through my limbs.

--Colin Powell

white sand

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

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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

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Trump has no sense of shame.

--Colin Powell

foggy mountain summit

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

--Colin Powell

snowy mountain

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

black fishes

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

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A sense of shame is not a bad moral compass.

--Colin Powell

body of water

Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.

--Colin Powell

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It's a disgrace that we have millions of people who are uninsured.

--Colin Powell

Longer Version:

It's a disgrace that we have millions of people who are uninsured, but at the same time too -- in the eyes of the American people, in my judgment, it looked as if that somehow become more important than the main attack which was to fix the economy and get the Americans working again.


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

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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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

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If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.

--Colin Powell

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No one has done more to prevent conflict -- no one has made a greater sacrifice for the cause for Peace -- than you, America's proud missile submarine family. You stand tall among our heroes of the Cold War.

--Colin Powell

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No war on the face of the Earth is more destructive than the AIDS pandemic.

--Colin Powell

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It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.

--Colin Powell

Bryce Canyon National Park Sunrise Point at Utah

I consider myself a moderate Republican. I have very, very moderate social views, and I'm pretty strong on, on defense matters.

--Colin Powell


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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

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90 percent of my time is spent on 10 percent of the world.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell

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With vision only, you get no follow-through. With enforcers only, the vision is realized but leaves a lot of wreckage.

--Colin Powell



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I don't want to spend the rest of my life giving speeches.

--Colin Powell

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A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.

--Colin Powell


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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


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

--Colin Powell


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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





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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

rainbow

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

--Colin Powell


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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

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I respect the fact that many denominations have different points of view with respect to gay marriage and they can hold that in the sanctity in the place of their religion and not bless them or solemnize them.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell



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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


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

--Colin Powell



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

--Colin Powell

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Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up.

--Colin Powell

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I think whether you're having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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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

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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

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Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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We are not dictating. We are not telling them Saudi Arabia how they should do it or who they should look like. We are their friends. We have mutual interests and we will help them in any way that is possible.

--Colin Powell

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It's an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms.

--Colin Powell



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

--Colin Powell

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Yup, the whole birther movement was racist.

--Colin Powell


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You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy.

--Colin Powell


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

--Colin Powell

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I try to be the same person I was yesterday.

--Colin Powell



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Politics is not bean bags. It's serious, tough stuff.

--Colin Powell


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One of the fondest expressions around is that we can't be the world's policeman. But guess who gets called when suddenly someone needs a cop.

--Colin Powell

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Don't let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn't go with it.

--Colin Powell

full moon in the sky

What you're seeing with Occupy Wall Street and the others are people who are unhappy and they're directing their unhappiness now toward Wall Street and toward those they think are doing too well in our society.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell

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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

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The United States is not stingy. We are the greatest contributor to international relief efforts in the world.

--Colin Powell


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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

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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

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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





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War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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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

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Wouldn't it be great if we could look forward to a whole world in which no child will be left behind?

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell

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The country would be a lot better off if we stopped having comment sections. And if we got rid of Twitter.

--Colin Powell


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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

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Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team's mission.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not.

--Colin Powell

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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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We are rather candid with them about the nature of their political processes and the state of development of their institutions, but they are looking to the West because they know that's where success lies.

--Colin Powell


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But just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, sooner or later, you've got to compromise. You've got to start making the compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.

--Colin Powell

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Don't bother people for help without first trying to solve the problem yourself.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell

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High-quality early-childhood programs and health coverage have expanded, and the number of mentoring relationships for at-risk youth has risen dramatically. That progress is encouraging, but it's not evenly distributed.

--Colin Powell

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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



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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


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It's nice to say let's be bipartisan. But we're a partisan nation. We were raised as a partisan nation.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell


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

--Colin Powell




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There is no such thing as an unimportant person in an organization.

--Colin Powell


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

--Colin Powell


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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

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There is no question about the fact that we had very serious disagreements with my German, French, and Russian colleagues over the Iraq war. But I never stopped talking.

--Colin Powell

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We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.

--Colin Powell


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It is the job of leaders to eliminate uncertainty.

--Colin Powell

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An organization that is not facing up to people who are not getting the job done, is going to have difficulties.

--Colin Powell

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

--Colin Powell

green leafed tree on body of water under starry sky

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.

--Colin Powell

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Bahrain is moving at one pace, Morocco another, Qatar at another, Kuwait at yet another. And we are there to assist our friends.

--Colin Powell


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

--Colin Powell

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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

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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


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

--Colin Powell


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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

We wish you a perfect day!