America’s Promise

America’s Promise

It was with great sadness that I heard the news yesterday of the death of Colin Powell. So much has been written about this statesman, warrior, but most importantly, a man who represented the fact that the American Dream can become a reality. I wanted to share with you my own personal experience from several meetings I had with Powell in the late 1990s. At that time, I was serving Armstrong Holdings as its vice president of corporate communications and the president of its foundation. Powell had started an organization called America’s Promise, from which a few meetings with Powell resulted in our giving them $1 million to fund the important work of this group

America’s Promise is a nationwide movement to improve the lives and futures of America’s youth. It brings together hundreds of corporations, not-for-profits, community and civic leaders, and educators to catalyze action. The group believes that every young person deserves to succeed and every adult is responsible for making that happen. America’s Promise was the story of Colin Powell. He espoused its values and purpose, to show each of us what can be achieved.

On several occasions, I was ushered into his DC office to see how our organization could help. There was always a genuine interest in hearing what our issues and concerns were. One of the most impressive things about those meetings was his transparency of the needs of the group and metrics he put in place to report on its success. It was not a “normal” not-for-profit just looking for contributions, but rather a dynamic organization realizing that donors would want to see how their support was tangibly helping improve the lives of young people.

His attention to detail was extraordinary. The group would give male representatives of corporate donors a tie-clip with the group’s iconic red wagon to say thank you. But when he learned of my personal preference for cuff links, he had his staff mount two of the tie clips on fasteners, to present me with a pair. I am wearing those cufflinks today, in remembrance of Colin Powell and all that he stood for.

If American had a Mount Rushmore of great leaders who were not presidents, Powell should be on it. His personal success, humility and commitment to our nation should be an example to us all. May his memory be a blessing to his family.