Retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell called for continued faith in the United States and compromise in Washington when he spoke to a sold-out crowd in McGuirk Arena Thursday.
“It doesn’t take a super man to change this nation, it takes super people,” Powell said. “This country is changing, and both parties need to change with it.”
Powell played a key role in four presidential administrations and was the first African American to serve as Secretary of State. He was brought to Central Michigan University as the keynote speaker in the university’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. week.
Powell opened his speech with a discussion about the influence the Constitution as a “living document” should have on politicians.
“The government has to change and grow as this nation continues to change and grow,” Powell said. “Change is part of what we are as a diverse group of people.”
He also expressed the need for compromise between the Democratic and Republican parties.
“I hope in the weeks and months ahead that both sides will reach out, because we can’t fight and demonize each other anymore,” Powell said. “Let’s find a compromise and move forward.”
Powell used King’s legacy as a man of compromise and change to illustrate his point.
“Martin Luther King had to fight a great war for equality,” he said. “He did what no one else could and held up a mirror to the country and asked, ‘Is this what the Founding Fathers wanted?’”
Powell said he thought some people were losing faith that the United States was one of the best nations in the world.
“The world may have changed, but we are still number one. We are still the land of hope and inspiration for all,” he said. “We affect everyone around us. We are the nation of all nations. As long as we don’t forget and believe in that, we will still be number one.”
Leadership was another area Powell addressed. He gave the crowd insight into his acclaimed ways of leadership.
“The basis of leadership is trust. There needs to be trust between followers and between the leader and followers,” he said. “Without any form of trust, there is no leadership.”
He also spoke about the value of recognizing what a leader’s followers need and recognizing followers.
“Any group of humans can strive with the right leader. Leaders just have to give their followers what they need to succeed,” Powell said. “It isn’t hard. People want to succeed, and they want to be recognized when they succeed.”
Powell gave the audience a glimpse into his life, sharing stories of his family’s adventures with technology, getting hot dogs in New York and even having to pass through TSA security at the airport.
“Even I have to go through the TSA when I go to the airport,” he said. “I want to get mad every time I pass through, but I know I can’t. I’m the one that put it in place.”
He made multiple jokes, reminisced about the more luxurious side of his time in office and even joked with University President George Ross.
“I have my own private plane. You have your own plane, too, don’t you George?” he joked.
Powell said as much as he enjoyed his time serving America in a political role, he enjoys being retired, because it gives him a chance to see parts of America he might not have otherwise.
“I like being retired because it gives me the time to see the ‘real’ America. I learn so much about a place when I come to a city like Mount Pleasant,” he said. “I wish I could bottle what I see in the countryside, bring it to D.C., and pour it over the politicians’ heads.”