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Colin Luther Powell was born in New York City on April 5, 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, 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.

After completing the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ranger Course, and Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, General Powell was stationed as a lieutenant in Germany. Subsequent operational assignments took him to Fort Devens, Massachusetts; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Fort Carson, Colorado. General Powell served two tours in Vietnam, from 1962 to 1963 and 1968 to 1969. He was also a battalion commander in Korea from 1973 to 1974. He later commanded the 2d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the US Army’s V Corps in Germany. Prior to being named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he served as the Commanding General, United States Army Forces Command headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia.

In addition to his selection as a White House Fellow in 1972, General Powell’s assignments in Washington, DC included duty as Senior Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and as Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. He served as Executive Assistant to the Secretary of Energy for a brief period. In December 1987, President Ronald Reagan named General Powell as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, a post in which he served until January 1989.

General Powell served as the twelfth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense, from October 1, 1989 to September 30, 1993, under both President George Bush and President Bill Clinton. In this capacity, he served as the principal military advisor to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council.

General Powell has been the recipient of numerous US 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. He has also been decorated by the governments of Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.

Among General Powell’s citations for distinguished public service are two awards of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. Additionally, he received an honorary knighthood (Knight of the Bath) from the Queen of England in December of 1993.

After retiring from the US Army on September 30, 1993, General Powell spent the next two years writing his autobiography, titled My American Journey, which was published in September 1995. Currently he is lecturing to diverse audiences in the United States and abroad, while serving on the boards of several non-profit organizations. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University and a member of the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund. The General also serves on the Board of Governors of The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Children’s Health Fund. In January of 1997, President Clinton named him to be the General Chairman of The President’s Summit for America’s Future, held in Philadelphia on April 27-29, 1997. Following the Summit, General Powell agreed to chair "America’s Promise - The Alliance for Youth," the ongoing national campaign dedicated to improving the lives of the nation’s more than fifteen million at-risk youth.

General Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. They have a son, Michael, and two daughters, Linda and Annemarie.