Colin Powell is coming to Seattle. Will that work for you?

Colin Powell is coming to Seattle on Wednesday for a conversation around his new book It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.

City Club (which also supports the Globalist), is organizing the event and has put up billboards around town. In the online advertisement, they urge you to join the conversation with Powell as he “reveals the unique lessons that have shaped his life and legendary career in public service.”

Powell is a unique man who will certainly be a household name for years to come. He was born in Harlem to Jamaican immigrants and rose through the ranks to become a four star general and then Secretary of State. He was encouraged to run for President himself and then famously crossed party lines to endorse Obama in 2008.

He also had the good taste to marry a woman named Alma.

Among Powell’s military achievements are his role as a senior military advisor the 1983 invasion of Grenada in Operation Urgent Fury, which the UN called a “a flagrant violation of international law,” in the 1986 bombing of Libya in Operation El Dorado Canyon. Later, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he oversaw the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the first Gulf War.

And then of course, he gave the fear-filling speech at the UN Security Council in 2003 that instigated the world to go to war against Iraq. He has since reflected on this speech publicly many times, including in this recent NPR interview that is worth a listen.

Colin Powell UN WMD
Colin Powell arguing to the UN that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in February 2003 (Photo from Wikipedia)

I want to acknowledge the context of Powell’s life.  He is a black second generation immigrant who needed and wanted to make a life for himself, one different than what most black, immigrant children had access to in this country. I get it.

But I find myself taking Powell’s words of wisdom with a smirk. Here is a black man who joined the military (an institution that recruits and jeopardizes the lives of mainly the poor and people of color), while killing in the name of equality and freedom, then joined the Republican Party (built on institutionalized racism and segregation), and now he writes a book, unfortunately titled, It Worked for Me.

What exactly worked for Mr. Powell? Yes, working hard worked for him. But it is still not enough for most US citizens and immigrants, who continue to struggle for basic needs in spite of their hard work. Yes, joining the military worked for him, but at what cost and who footed the bill in the short and long term? Yes, the Republican Party worked for him, but what about women who are endangered by constant cuts in health care that forbid them abortions?

Some of his words of advice in the advertisements for Wednesday’s event are “Get mad, then get over it,” “Share credit,” and “Remain calm. Be kind.”

Get mad and get over it? Getting mad has created the Civil Rights Movement, the women’s liberation movement, the Occupy movement, and the Arab Spring. When should we get over our anger Mr. Powell?

Then there is the “be kind.” I can’t help but wonder when should one show kindness and to whom? The war on Iraq in 2003 came after near-total economic and trade sanctions posed by the UN on Iraq that started in 1990. Leaving Iraqis without wheat and pencils (for fear they would use them in building weapons of mass destruction) for 13 years. Then came the invasion of Iraq. Kindness indeed.

Mr. Powell, I want to believe that your words of wisdom and advice are genuine. Maybe all this terror is not your fault; you were a soldier following orders; you were the messenger of a report you did not write or research.  And we are told not to blame the messenger.

I wonder if the Seattlelites who attend Powell’s talk Wednesday will find inspiration in the narratives of what worked for him, if they will find advice relevant to their own lives. Or will they ask him the tough questions about exactly how what worked for Powell is going to work for them?

I am hoping for the latter.

Colin Powell will speak in Seattle at the Westin Seattle (1900 5th Ave, Seattle WA 98101) from 8-9pm. Event prices: one ticket and one book for $35 and two tickets and one book for $50. Tickets here

Alma Khasawnih was born in Amman to a Jordanian father and a Palestinian-Syrian mother. She immigrated to the US in 1996 and received a passport in 2002. The city she feels most affinity to in the US is Detroit, but she lives in Seattle now and wants to grow old in Barcelona.  Alma is a regular columnist for the Globalist and works with CD Forum as the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator.


  1. Alma,
    You make me sick that so many have defended your right to bash a man of such integrity. General Powell served this country with distinction and you have the audacity to write this crap. I wish people such as you would move out of the United States and make it a much better country. Let me know when you’re ready to leave and I am more than willing to pay for your flight, one way of course. That’s the stipulation, you never return and can enjoy the freedoms so many other countries provide.

    1. Sorry Frank but Powell DIDNT serve this country, he served teh new world order that took over this country, nothing he did was in service to this country, it helped destroy this countries economy, standing in the world and its freedoms at home. you are the one who should leave this country Franks since you have no idea what ideals America was founded on. You need to do some research and stop buying into every lie the TV tells you to believe. wake up.

      1. Kimpudrock,
        It is obvious you are ignorant to what truly happens in this world on a daily basis and have proven how poor our education system has become. It’s a good thing fast food restaurants exist so I don’t have to worry about you needing welfare. I highly recommend you attend English/History 101 before you engage in a adult conversation.

    2. I don’t see Alma’s piece as disrespectful or bashing at all… Rather the posing of deep questions, offered as a means of civil discourse and inquiry to ponder the challenges of our times. I would imagine Colin Powell would welcome the opportunity to such a thoughtful exchange. To me this is the essence of democracy, freedom and the essence of what is great about our nation.

  2. Frank,
    You’re only reinforcing the Republican stereotype with that rant of yours. Chill out. I doubt I’ll go see him talk about himself. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a different context, and perhaps a bit longer than one hour, which is usually reduced to 45 minutes anyhow. I like Colin, but I think he’s been out of the game too long… sitting on the fence isn’t passion.

  3. Why would you want people with different ideas than you to leave the country? Aren’t diverse ideas and open dialogue what freedom is all about (and why it’s worth defending)? Bullying people who have opposing viewpoints doesn’t seem very patriotic to me (and I think Colin Powell would agree).

    1. It’s one thing to have different points of view, but to openly bash a man who has done great things for this country is another. She also bashes the military that defends her right to speak by stating “an institution that recruits and jeopardizes the lives of mainly the poor and people of color.” Apparently, Alma forgot this country has a all volunteer force and nobody required Colin Powell or any other individual to join the service. I’m not bullying anyone, but simply stating how she discussed me for writing garbage about a man who has sacrificed so much for her freedom. It’s really not different then the hypocrites who show up to rally against the war in Iraq claiming it was about oil rights, and they all drove their cars to the rally.

  4. Gofer,
    I’m not a republican or democrat for that matter. I truly believe both parties have done their best over the last 30 years to destroy this country. I would love to see someone in office that doesn’t represent either party and in fact don’t believe the President should represent one party. The last time I checked the President was support to represent all Americans, not just democrats in the case of President Obama.

  5. General Colin Powell, attained the highest office a military man/woman can hold Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, it was not given to him, he earned it. Also the fact that he did not graduate from any of the military academy’s makes it all that more impressive, usually only ring knockers make it to flag ranks. He has acknowledged the statement made at the UN was in error and he regrets making it, but it was based on evidence supplied by the CIA, nothing he “made up”. He has also in the past year stated that there was no decision making in the case of war with Iraq, the President and Tony Blair made the decision to go to war, it was not done by any decision of the National Security Staff.

    I have a lot more respect for Colin Powell than I do for President Bush, VP Cheney, Rumsfeld or anyone else in Government for the past decade, personally I think he would have made a great President in his own right and no I am not a Republican, I am an independent who leans more to the democratic vision of life. I served in the Army from the Vietnam Era thru Gulf War One, and spent my civilian years working at the Postal Service.

    I retired in South Carolina and do not envision in taking the money I made in America to retire in Spain or anywhere else. If America is na great place to make money during your working years then maybe you should think about retiring here.


    1. What is this occupy thing you refer to? It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t place where I have heard it. Oh yeah, now I remember……it’s one of those things relegated to the dustbin of novelty insignificance.

  7. “…then joined the Republican Party (built on institutionalized racism and segregation)…”

    Read up on your history. Republicans ended slavery AND segregation.

  8. I too am disgusted by Alma’s comments. I understand this is a blog and not real journalism, but she irresponsibly attacks the man without any backup. It is all how she feels about him rather than what he has done to deserve the attack. For her and people like her, the only thing who deserves more hostilities than a system that hinders/holds back/oppresses people, is those same people who make it out. She would rather Colin Powell remained in the group of underachieving/oppressed, than do the work to get him self out. Why? Because it means he would have to adopt a different attitude, the kind of attitude that is developed when one determines to be successful, the attitude that we are responsible for ourselves, that we are not victims of chance, the attitued of accepting obstacles and using them to propel ourselves rather than excuses. Alma even takes a moment to praise herself in an article about someone else. She can’t stand the successful people who refuse to follow in line with “their group” who are supposed to wallow in their blight. These people contradict her philosophy and her discount her wrath.

  9. If you think man is going to straighten out the problems we have now, your idea is doomed, man will let you down every time, look at history, have we learned anything from it, no no no, we are doing the same thing the Romans did!!!The Euro is going out in three months, but God said in Chronicles 7:14, If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land!!!

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