Remarks at the 2003 Groundhog Job Shadow Day
Powell's Remarks at the 2003 Groundhog Job Shadow Day
Remarks at the 2003 Groundhog Job Shadow Day Program
Secretary Colin L. Powell Remarks and question and answer session with students Washington, DC January 31, 2003
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. I hope that your morning and early afternoon was filled with lots of interesting activities and that you had time to enjoy your lunch. I also hope that during the period that you spent with your mentor you were able to get a better idea of what it's like to work at the State Department, as well as sense of our mission here: what we do and why we're so passionate about what we do here.
Before we go further in our program today, I want to bring a very special student up to the podium to introduce our main speaker. Her name is Constance Banks. Constance has been shadowing Secretary of State Colin Powell this morning. Constance is a senior at Booker T. Washington High School in the District, lives in Northwest Washington and is interested in pursuing a degree in Business Management at one of these colleges: Clark University, North Carolina A&T or Howard University. I am sure whichever school she attends, she will be a success.
A few months back, Constance, through one of her counselors at school, got involved in a program called, "College Bound," which matches students with mentors who keep in touch with them either in person, by phone or via e-mail. Constance was fortunate enough to be paired up with Secretary Powell and have him as her e-mentor. (Laughter.)
This school year Secretary Powell and Constance have been keeping in close touch with each other via e-mail monitoring Constance's progress in school and in life.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, please welcome Secretary Powell's e-mentee and Groundhog Job Shadow Student, Constance Banks.
MS. BANKS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Constance Banks and today I'm participating in the Job Shadowing program with my mentor, Secretary of State Colin Powell, which was given to me by the Beacon House Digital Heroes Program.
Secretary Powell was educated in New York City public schools and served in the military as a professional soldier for 35 years during which time he held many command and staff positions and rose to the rank of a four-star general. Later, in 1987 he was appointed Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. He became the 12th Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.
Following his retirement, Secretary Powell took two years to complete his autobiography entitled, "My American Journey." Also, Secretary Powell received many accolades, including two Presidential of Freedom awards, the President's Citizen Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal. Secretary Powell was nominated by President Bush on December 16, 2000, as Secretary of State. After being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he was sworn in as the 65th Secretary of State on January 20, 2001.
Secretary Colin Powell is married to former Alma Vivian Johnson and has one son, Michael, two daughters, Linda and Annemarie. Please give a round of applause for your Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Connie, and very well done, and now you can relax. You've been worrying about that all day long. (Laughter.)
It's a great pleasure to welcome you all here this afternoon and I hope you've had a good day. I really love this program, Groundhog Job Shadow Day. We started it, I guess it's four years ago. I can't quite remember, but I was Chairman of America's Promise to the Alliance for Youth at that time, and between America's Promise and a number of other youth-serving organizations, we said, "You know, we ought to go get a bunch of young people and bring them into workplaces, bring them in the offices and let them see what the workplace is all about, maybe turn them on to something. Maybe they'll see something they like. Maybe they'll be inspired in some way."
It's kind of a takeoff on "Bring Your Son or Bring Your Daughter To Work," but the challenge here was don't bring your son and don't bring your daughter to work, bring someone else's son or someone else's daughter to work, someone who might not have an opportunity to visit a place like the State Department. And we had a lot of fun with this program. The first year we did it, I think we had about 100,000 kids. And now it's grown to where it's over a million youngsters just like you around the country are participating in this program. And I think we have 150 students here with us as well as some youngsters from Miner School. And, are they over there? Are those -- is that Miner over there?
Miner's an elementary school that the State Department has a regular partnership with, so these youngsters know a little bit more about the State Department than those of you who were just here for the day.
And as Connie mentioned, I am also her e-mentor through another program called, "The Digital Heroes Program," and every year I am matched up with another young person and we e-mail each other for the course of the year and I tell them about all my problems and how I need help and they write me back. And so Constance has been my e-mail buddy since the beginning of the school year, and I'm so pleased that she was able, living nearby, to join us for this day.
What I wanted you to accomplish this day, my goal for this day, was for each and every one of you to come in here, take a look at this beautiful building, take a look at the State Department, hear about what your Buddy-for-the-Day does within the State Department family and get some sense of the broader world in which you live -- a day that takes you out of your community, out of your neighborhood, out of this country, and give you a sense of what foreign policy is all about and how the United States has to work with some 190 nations around the world and look at all it takes to keep our foreign policy on track, not only as Secretary of State, but people who are in charge of administration, all of the people that we have at our embassies around the world, people who put their lives at risk in some places. I lost three members of my State Department family last year to terrorist activities. So it isn't just going out and being a diplomat and going to parties, it's dangerous, as well.
And these are wonderful people who work in the Department who are willing, in the name of the American people, to go to these places far away and serve their country. Sometimes their youngsters, their children are not near any schools. Sometimes their children have to be sent four countries away to go to school. Sometimes they're not near hospitals, they don't have any of the conveniences and cultural activities or other things that you take for granted here in the United States, but nevertheless, they're still willing to go overseas and serve in some remote areas because they believe they are serving not just their country, they are serving each and every one of you. They are serving the American people.
So Foreign Service, whether you do it as a Foreign Service Officer or a Civil Servant, is noble work, and I hope you will leave here after the day is over with some sense of the noble work that is performed by all of the mentors you have come in contact with during the course of the day.
There are a couple of other things I hope that each and every one of you young people take away, and that is, you have seen what professionalism is all about here. You've seen what it takes to be successful. If you have been around your mentor for any length of time in the course of the day, you have seen someone who was working hard, someone who was constantly reading, constantly on the phone, constantly studying, constantly taking in new knowledge.
So far, Connie has seen me on the phone, she's looked at my desk, which is covered with paper, and I just let it sit there while she and I chatted for a while. She's been with me now for two speeches. I swore in Ambassador Sauerbrey earlier today. I just did a speech downtown. This is my third speech in the last three hours. She's getting tired of hearing me speak. But nevertheless, this is one of the things that I do. It's part of my way of communicating foreign policy and communicating the State Department to the world. And what each of you should see is, if you're going to be successful in life, hard work never ends. If you're going to be successful in life, homework never ends.
I go home every night with two huge briefcases -- not some little old backpack. (Laughter.) I got me two huge briefcases full of homework. I've got briefing books, I've got things I've got to worry about for the next day, I've got speeches I have to look at that I have to deliver the next day with the whole world watching, waiting for me to goof, I've got all kinds of things I have to do and I've got to do my homework every day. And I don't have to explain the next day why I didn't do my homework to the teacher, I've got to explain it to the President of the United States. And President George Bush does not like it when you have not done your homework.
And so hard work is a part of life. Preparation is a part of life. Whether you're preparing for tomorrow as Secretary of State or whether you're preparing for tomorrow to go to school and do well on a test. Hard work requires discipline. You are at that stage in your life where you have to develop those habits of self-discipline -- doing what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it, listening to instructions, reading constantly to gather in information, analyzing it, making right judgments, not being influenced by people in the wrong way, setting your own course, knowing the difference between right from wrong, knowing that right is going to take you to a bright future and wrong takes you nowhere.
You're at the age now where those habits have to become ingrained. You have to start disciplining yourself. You have to start doing what is required because you know it's required, not because your teacher or your mom or your dad or someone else is beating on you to do it.
You will find that if you develop those habits now -- habits of discipline and hard work and homework and not being afraid of what the future has for you tomorrow -- those habits become ingrained. And people notice that you are that kind of a person, someone who can be relied upon. And even at this early stage in your life, you begin to develop something called a reputation. You become someone that people look at and say, "I can count on him." "I can count on her." "I know that she does what she says she's going to do." "I know that that person has character."
This is the time when you develop and build character and you develop and build a reputation. And I hope that you will always keep uppermost in your mind. This is also the time when you learn how to fail. Failure is a part of life. Young people sometimes find failure difficult to take. You know, "Why did this happen to me? Why did I fail that test? Why is it that I had a problem with this friend at school?"
This is the time to understand that failure is a part of life. It never goes away. And what each of you as young people have to learn is how to deal with it. And the simple solution that I've found to deal with something going wrong, a failure, is to find out what you did wrong -- not what someone else did wrong, not what someone did to you, "What did I do wrong that caused this failure?" And then learn from that. Examine it. Fix yourself. Prove yourself. And then roll up that failure in a little ball, throw it over your shoulder and never think about it again. You cannot change yesterday -- nothing you can do about yesterday. The only thing you can do is your best today and to get ready for tomorrow. And I think that you have been exposed today to people who live that code of hard work, discipline, service to each other, service to the nation, a belief in the nation, how to compensate for weaknesses that you have and above all, how to deal with failure.
And so I want to welcome you here to the Department. I don't have a great deal of time, but I think what we might do for a few moments is see if any of you young people have a question or two you might like to ask me. You can ask me anything you want and I decide what I'm going to answer. (Laughter.) It's good to be the Secretary.
That young man right in the corner had his hand up first, I think.
QUESTION: Can I have your autograph?
SECRETARY POWELL: Now if I gave you my autograph right now, you know what would happen? We'd have a small problem. But I'll figure out a way to do it, okay? Just stay there for a minute.
QUESTION: How much time does your job take up?
SECRETARY POWELL: How much time?
QUESTION: How much time does your job take up away from --
SECRETARY POWELL: -- does my job take up? I get here at, I get up at 5:00, 5:30 in the morning and I'm usually here by quarter to six, a quarter to seven in the morning, after having spent the first half hour at home on the Internet looking at news and stuff and overnight mail.
And so I'm usually upstairs by quarter to seven, and I'll usually leave between 7:00 and 8:00 at night. And then I will usually do another two hours of homework at night after having dinner with my wife, seeing what's going on, playing with the dogs for a few minutes, and try to get to bed fairly early so I can be awake the next morning. And many nights I have to go out on social, to social events that are a part of the job, so I work 12 to 14 hours a day, something like that.
QUESTION: When will we conquer Iraq and liberate that country?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that's a good question. We're hoping that we'll be able to get rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction peacefully, without a war. And that still is our goal, but we are preparing for a war, should it be necessary. War is not something you should wish for, it's something you should try to avoid. But we hope that a better day is coming for Iraq and for the people of Iraq.
Can I come over here? That young man.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if all your time is spent doing homework, do you still have time to work on your old Volvos?
SECRETARY POWELL: One of my hobbies is working on old cars, and he's asking me about my old Volvos because my real specialty is fixing old Volvos. And I don't have as much time as I used to, but I still have an old one, a 1966 Volvo, out in the back yard. And if I ever get any free time on a weekend, I'll go out there and see if it needs fixing and it almost always does.
QUESTION: How did you prepare for your career?
SECRETARY POWELL: When I was a teenager in New York City, I wasn't a great student. I have to tell the story. I was a "C" student and managed to get into college. They didn't have SAT scores in those days, thank heavens. And I got into college and found ROTC, the Reserve Officers Training Program, the Army. And the Army turned me on. Nothing else in college was really doing it for me. The Army turned me on. And a lot of the things I just talked about, discipline, hard work, sticking with it, you know, developing a reputation -- those are sort of the early lessons I picked up in my cadet years in ROTC.
And when I graduated from college, it was an obligation I had to then go in the Army for a couple of years. And I went into the Army loving it. And once I got in the Army I found that I was pretty good at it as a soldier, and I never -- I just never left.
My parents kept saying, "When are you coming out? Nobody stays in the Army. You're supposed to come out." And that went on for years and my mother kept saying, "When are you coming out and getting a real job?" And I said, "Mom, I kind of like this." And I went to Vietnam and came back. I went to Vietnam and came back. And they kept wondering when I would get out, but I would found something I loved, and then I finally got them all to stop bugging me when I told them I was getting a pension at 20 years. That's all my family cared about -- you got a pension.
Let's see. Let's go over to one of these young folks. Young lady.
QUESTION: Did you?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. You're the young lady, yeah.
QUESTION: I'm a boy.
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't tell from this distance.
Young man. Excuse me.
QUESTION: How long has you been doing this job?
SECRETARY POWELL: How long have I been in this job? I've been Secretary of State for two years and one week.
Okay? This young lady.
QUESTION: Do you like being the Secretary of State?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. It's a cool job.
No, I mean, it's a great job. I work very hard, but it's exciting and I work with wonderful people and I think I'm serving the country reasonably well. And that brings me great satisfaction, so I like it very much.
The young man with his hand up there.
QUESTION: Yes, how are you doing today, sir? My name is Robert Webb from Fairmont Heights High School. I'd like to know, how do you feel about the draft? Do you feel as though --
SECRETARY POWELL: The draft?
QUESTION: The draft. Do you feel as though it will also come back if you decide to go to war?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think it'll come back and when it went out in the early 70s, I was a Lieutenant Colonel. And most of us at that time who were professional soldiers, we didn't want to see the draft end. We kind of thought the draft connected us to the American people, and we were fearful of what would happen if the draft ended. But it ended. And we built a different kind of Armed Force on a voluntary basis where the young men and women in the military want to be in the military. We're not taking them and making them do something involuntarily.
And it has proven to be very, very successful. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard we have now are the best we've ever had -- professional young people serving their country willingly, just as patriotic and dedicated as any group of Americans you'll ever find. And so far that voluntary system has been able to meet the manpower needs of the country and our Armed Forces. And for that reason, I don't see a need to go to a draft, and I think the all-volunteer force is so good that I wouldn't try to go back to conscription. And I don't think the Congress would approve it now, anyway.
QUESTION: What's your advice for getting into one of the military academies?
SECRETARY POWELL: You better be smart. The military academies, West Point -- United States Military Academy, Annapolis for the Navy, and out in Colorado Springs for the Air Force, the Air Force Academy, then there's the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy, they're all marvelous institutions, but they have very, very high standards. And you really have to have good SAT scores. But beyond that, you have to demonstrate a sense of service and a sense of discipline, and a willingness to live under the rigors of military life as opposed to chilling out at a nice college somewhere. It's tough. But if you have an inclination in that direction, you ought to write to the academy, or go on their website -- just go into GoogleTM and throw in the name of the academy and it'll pop right up; and lots of information on the website, and they'll send you all the forms you need.
If you still are so committed to the academy, one of the academies, but you don't think your grades or your, you know, your academic standing is quite ready for that, they have preparatory schools that you might be able to get into that gives you a year or two of preparation if they feel that you would be a good cadet in due course. And they're looking for people who have been leaders in their community and people who have performed service in their community. So strong academics, especially math, good grades, and a commitment to service and you have demonstrated that commitment by how you have performed in your community.
Okay. Let's see.
This young man right here.
QUESTION: Can you explain why, exactly, Iraq is an imminent threat? I actually have two questions.
SECRETARY POWELL: Let's stick with one because there are a lot of kids.
QUESTION: Well, why, exactly, well -- maybe then I'll change my question. Why, exactly, since our historical question why the U.S. funded the overthrow in 1973 of democratically elected President Salvadore Allende from Chile on September 11th and why the U.S. supported the dictator Augusto Pinochet regardless of the fact that he was a brutal dictator in the name -- in the name of democracy?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. The -- it's a question that goes back to a period in our history in the 60s and 70s and the question talks about the overthrow of Allende in Chile and General Pinochet, who came to power.
I can't justify or explain the actions and decisions that were made at that time. It was a different time. There was a great deal of concern about communism in this part of the world. Communism was a threat to the democracies in this part of the world. It was a threat to the United States.
And frankly, up through -- I would say -- the late 80s, one had to continue to worry about communist insurgence in the Western Hemisphere, with a lot of that insurgency being fostered and promoted out of Cuba. That's no longer the case now. Cuba is isolated.
And for reasons that are well known to history, there were efforts at that time to change the nature of those regimes. I'm pleased, however, that since those days, all of those nations now have democratically elected presidents and we will only support democratically elected presidents in the region.
Mr. Pinochet was eased out, eventually. I remember one of the more exciting moments of my life as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was going to Chile and sitting in an auditorium like this with all of the senior military leaders of Chile with General Pinochet still in a position of authority, but now with civilian government in charge, and speaking to all of those military leaders and telling them what the responsibility officers is and are in a democratic society.
So things have changed from those days to the extent now that we have what we call, "A Community of Democracies," in the Western Hemisphere with 34 of the 35 nations in our Hemisphere part of that. And the rules of being a member of the Community of Democracies is you believe in the democratic process, you believe in individual rights, you do not believe in the overthrow of government, you do not believe in the subversion of government, and we believe in the values that really were the essence of your question.
Let's see. Okay. This young man, right here.
QUESTION: When you go to the United Nations on Wednesday --
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you think you'll have enough evidence to change France and Germany's minds and any other European or Russian allies that aren't too sure about if war needs to be?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that I'll have an extensive presentation that will lay down a number of facts, some evidence, some information, intelligence that I think will present a picture of a regime that has not complied with the will of the international community, a regime that has already been found guilty and is not trying to get out of its guilt, a regime that is frustrating the will of the international community, a regime that's been on parole for many, many years and continues to violate its parole. And I hope that what I present will help make the case to the Security Council that they have to apply more pressure on the regime to do what it's supposed to do. And if the regime still will not do so, then it is the obligation of the Security Council not just to say, let inspections continue forever, but that under the terms of the resolution that they passed a few months ago, it is time to take action to apply the serious consequences that were contemplated when the resolution was passed last November.
The young lady who's going (laughter.)
You either want me or you're stopping a train.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Afton Bargess. I'm a student at Largo High School in the Academy of Law and Public Policy Program. And my question of you was, I'm curious to find out what do you see yourself doing when or if you ever retire?
SECRETARY POWELL: Whoa. (Laughter.) I don't know. (Laughter.) The next time I retire -- I don't know. I didn't know what I would be doing the last time I retired. The only thing I knew then was write a book and do some speaking and didn't think I'd be coming back in government, but here I am.
I've tended not to be the kind of person who sits down and says, "What am I going to be doing five years from now?" I live for the President -- present and the future. I'm not unmindful of the future, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about where I'm going to be in the future, what my future is. A lot of people do and that's fine, but it just hasn't been my style.
I've tended to take what comes, wait for whatever opportunity arises and then see if it's a fit for me and take advantage of it. And so this time or next time I retire, I haven't the slightest idea what I'm going to be doing after that except I ain't going to be getting up at 5:00 in the morning anymore.
Let's take one more, then I do have to go to work. Although this is more fun that the work I have do.
You've got it, dear.
QUESTION: What's your favorite part of your job?
SECRETARY POWELL: My favorite what?
QUESTION: What's your favorite part of your job?
SECRETARY POWELL: Favorite part of the job? Events like this -- talking to people and interacting with people -- and just the ability to communicate America's values to people. There's so many nice parts of the job that I'm, you know, I don't want to single out one thing to the exclusion of something else. Working with a great team of people who work hard and who are dedicated. Travel is a lot of fun -- that's if you don't do eight countries in seven days, but you know, you stay somewhere for more than four hours. That's a fun part of the job.
So it's got a lot of fun parts to it and I'm sure it'll have many more exciting and fun parts ahead and also some challenges ahead.
Now, I've got to go back to my office. That young man, meet me outside, okay? See? I haven't forgotten. And before I go, I want to ask a question. Now that you've been here for a whole day, how many of you want to come work at the State Department?
Way to go! Thank you very much!
Released on January 31, 2003