Colin Powell

Who Mentored Colin Powell?

Interview  Watch the video of Colin Powell.

Watch public service announcements featuring Colin Powell in support ofNational Mentoring Month.

Colin L. Powell was sworn in as the 65th Secretary of State on January 20, 2001. Secretary Powell is the founding 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.

Secretary Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he rose to the rank of 4-star General. He was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from December 1987 to January 1989. His last assignment, from October 1, 1989, to September 30, 1993, was as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Department of Defense. During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including Operation Desert Storm in the victorious 1991 Persian Gulf war.


How do children learn, how do children gain expectations to put in their hearts and souls?  They get it from the adults in their lives.  In my case, I got it from my parents, I got it from my aunts, I got it from my uncles, I got it from my minister, I got it from my teachers, I got it from a lot of people.  And if these people had not been in my life when I was a child, I don’t know where I would have ended up.  They kept me in place, they encouraged me, they gave me a sense of shame.

What adults do for children, what mentors do for children, is to pass on a hundred previous generations of experience.  And if that is not passed on to a youngster, the youngster will get that experience on the street and it may not be a good experience and that youngster will head in the wrong direction.  So all of us, as citizens of this great country, have an obligation to not only raise our own children in this manner so that they can be a great new generation; we have an obligation to do this for all of our children, especially those children who don’t have this family structure, or whose family structure needs some help.  And that’s why mentoring is so important.  That’s why each and everyone one of us who has some time, some talent, and a willingness to get in the life of a child will volunteer to do that.  It doesn’t mean that you become their parent; it just means you’re there for them.  You check on them, see how they’re doing, you encourage them, you give them your experience, you take them places.  You just enter their life and help them, help them deal with life. The beautiful part of mentoring is it’s not just what you do for that child; it’s what that child does for you.  You will be changed by this experience; you will gain as much as that child will.


But what we have to make sure we do, is to encourage all Americans who have the ability – and all of us have the ability to serve as a mentor – to step forward and say, “I’m going to be a mentor, because I want this next generation to take America to a higher level, a better place.”  Let’s all work on this.  Let’s all see what we can do for our children in every way possible.  And one of the best ways possible is to serve as a mentor.