National Client Conference
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2015 Conference Keynote Speaker
General Colin L. Powell
For over fifty years, General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) has devoted his life to public service. Having held senior military
and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations, Powell’s deep commitment to democratic values and
freedom has been felt throughout the world.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was born in Harlem in April 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. He was
educated in the New York City public schools and after graduating from Morris High School attended the City College of
New York where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. It was not until he joined the Army ROTC program
at CCNY that he discovered his calling and launched his military career. He received a commission as an Army second
lieutenant upon graduation in 1958 and went on to serve in the United States Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of Four-
From 1987 – 1989 Powell served as President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor. He served from 1989 – 1993
as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both President George H.W. Bush and for President Bill Clinton, and was not
only the youngest officer and first ROTC graduate ever to serve in the position but also was the first African American to
do so. During his time as Chairman, he oversaw 28 crises to include the Panama intervention of 1989 and Operation
Desert Storm in the victorious 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Under President George W. Bush, Powell was appointed the 65th Secretary of State and was unanimously confirmed by
the U.S. Senate. As Secretary of State, he led the State Department in major efforts to address and solve regional and
civil conflicts—in the Middle East, Sudan, Congo and Liberia, in the Balkans, Cyprus, Haiti, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan
and Iraq and elsewhere. In all areas, he used the power of diplomacy to build trust, forge alliances and then help
transform these unstable regions into areas where societies and cultures have the potential to prosper. He also worked at
the forefront of American efforts to advance economic and social development worldwide.
Among the many U.S. Military awards and decorations Powell has received are 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. His civil awards
include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal and the
Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. In addition, he has also 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.
Powell is the Chair of the Board of Visitors of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at his alma mater,
the City College of New York (CCNY). The Powell School was inaugurated May of 2013 and stands alongside CCNY’s
other premiere named schools.He is 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.
Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. They live in McLean, Virginia and have
three children and four grandchildren.