General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret) became the 65th Secretary of State on January 20, 2001. As he stated at his confirmation hearing, the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy during his tenure was that "America stands ready to help any country that wishes to join the democratic world."
Before becoming Secretary of State, Colin 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 victorious 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Born in New York City on April 5, 1937, General Powell was raised in the South Bronx. His parents 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 to include a French Legion of Honor and an honorary knighthood bestowed by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
General Powell is the Founder of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at his alma mater, the City College of New York. The Center is student-focused with a mission to develop a new generation of publicly engaged leaders. He is also 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.
He has also been a member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University and the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund. The General also served on the Board of Governors of The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and was a member of the Advisory Board of the Children's Health Fund.
Since returning to private life, General Powell has been helping to raise funds for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC and for the construction of an education center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He is the author of his best-selling autobiography, My American Journey.
General Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. The Powell family includes son Michael, daughters Linda and Annemarie, daughter-in-law Jane, and grandchildren Jeffrey, Bryan, Abigail and Patrick.