Colin Powell: A visit to remember



The Todd Lecture Series (TLS) and Norwich University welcomed an honored guest and lecturer on campus Tuesday, Nov. 11, who also observed in the remembrance ceremony held in honor of Veterans Day.

Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not only the youngest officer and first Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) graduate to ever serve in the position but was also the first African-American to do so.
The TLC committee wanted to invite a fall speaker that epitomized service in keeping with the Year of Service theme. The first of five themes in Norwich’s “Forging the Future” Bicentennial commemoration and celebration, according to Kathleen A. Murphy-Moriarty, Assistant Vice President Communications and Marketing at Norwich.
“Gen. Colin Powell embodies service to nation and others before self; one of our Guiding Values,” Murphy-Moriarty said. “Gen Powell has devoted his life to public service for over 50 years — as a senior military leader, in diplomatic positions with four presidential administrations, and through his dedication to community and civil service.”
That was something that Powell emphasized in his speech as he commended the Norwich philosophy founder Captain Alden Partridge envisioned, which was to educate everyone around you.
“It is, also of course, Veterans Day and I think back to the founder of this very school, Capt. Partridge, and his commitment to service and his commitment to sharing education widely throughout the community,” Powell said.
ROTC is a tool to not only commission officers of the military, but to grow leaders and, “a way of putting structure in the lives of young men and women and showing them how to serve and what personal confidence it about,” said Powell.
Often looked at as the stepchild to the service academies, Norwich and other schools offering ROTC have produced many successful military officers and civil leaders. Their influence has been felt by the nation at some of the highest levels of government.
“I am very pleased to be here with General Sullivan. A buddy, a comrade of many, many years. Two ROTC kids who made it good,” Powell said. “I like to kid my West Point friends: I know you thought we were just Christmas help, but look at us now,” he joked.
Powell chose the military as a career after first being a part of ROTC while attending City College in New York. For Norwich students seeking a commission in the armed forces, Powell’s path may serve as motivation for their careers in their ROTC program and beyond.
Norwich has an extraordinary legacy as the birthplace of ROTC and is, “something that no one can ever take away from us [NU],” according to Michael Kelley, associate professor of engineering. “We have that and to celebrate it take it and realize that when the cadets and guests are there at the remembrance serves on Veterans Day.”
Remembering what Americans who have served have done for the United States, “should send a shiver down your spine when you think about what that means. It’s very poignant. It’s remarkable that Powell is coming on Veterans Day,” Kelley said.
Powell’s visit was a rare opportunity for the Norwich and Central Vermont communities to have someone of his status present on a day that remembers the heroes, living and deceased, as he is considered by many as a hero himself.
“Very few people in American can say they heard Colin Powell speak firsthand, and been in the same place,” Kelley said. Powell, “is an extraordinary example of what the TLS brings to Norwich and the community.”
The TLC is named in honor of US Army retired Maj. Gen. and Norwich President Emeritus W. Russell Todd ’50, and his wife, Carol, in gratitude for their dedicated service to Norwich University and the Northfield community.
The series is funded by a generous donation from Ellen and John Drew, the Todd’s daughter and son-in-law, and the Drew Foundation. Thepowell_3_web series aspires to serve not only the Norwich University campus community, but also residents of Central Vermont and beyond.
TLS began in 2008 at Norwich as a single fall lecture and then spring lectures hosted by the University colleges, according to Lindsay Cahill Lord, special projects coordinator for the office of communications at Norwich University, who works in support of the TLS committee.
“The gift to establish the lecture series was given to establishing a series that could bring in big-name lecturers to campus, both for the benefit of Norwich students and the greater Central Vermont community,” Lord said. “That’s the reason the lectures are free and always open to the public.”
“I congratulate this wonderful institution for what you are doing,” said Powell, “not only for your students, but for your community by joining your communities together.” Powell said, “Make sure that we do not short-change education or we will be destroying our future.”
Having prominent lecturers has been a goal of the TLS, “and to have someone of this caliber is really remarkable,” Kelley said. “It’s a powerful statement about what the TLS has done to stretch the Norwich reach and the growth of distinguished speakers.” He added, when the TLS brings notable people to campus, “take advantage, you don’t have to agree with what they say, but come and listen, and think about what they have to say.,”
“The Norwich experience is all about the “leadership laboratory.” Gen. Powell brings forward his “13 life rules” that have served him well during his decades of leadership experience—his own personal leadership lab,” Murphy-Moriarty noted.
Powell talked about his life experience as an African American and how he overcame adversity raised in Harlem, and that clearly resonated with some students.
“Powell surpassed everything, I think it’s more of the thing that amazes me the most about him, is that every single day of his life people shoved statistics in his face, and what he could and could not do,” said Samantha Thornton, age 21, a junior majoring in criminal justice, from Key West, Fla.
“He ignored all of that and said no this is my story and this is how I’m going to tell it, and that is how he has lived his life and that’s absolutely amazing,” Thornton said.
Powell’s significance to American history may often be overlooked by younger generations, Kelley said.
“I don’t know if they can put into context what is the level of leadership he provided to four different presidential administrations.” Kelley said. “There are very few people who have that credential, they had direct access to four different presidents, and in their service to American they influenced national and foreign policy over that extensive period of time.”
Taking advantage of TLS opportunities, Powell’s as a prime example, is something that Norwich students should take special notice to and be able to learn from, Thornton said.
“So much of the population of this school is going to be in the military they are going to be leaders within our military, they are going to be officers within our military, they’re going to be CEOs of the next company and they have no idea who the prior generation of leaders were in America, No idea of what they did or the advances they made,” Thornton said. “The thing is that if you don’t know your history, you’re going to continue to repeat prior mistakes.”powell_2_web
To those future leaders, Powell had a message: “I want people to be inspired by their work for a purpose. Inspiration takes you to a higher level of passion.”

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