Customer Reviews: My American Journey
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on April 4, 2004
Back in the early 90's, I didn't understand America's love affair with Colin Powell. It was only after he was named Secretary of State by George Bush that I read My American Journey, originally published in 1995. While the book obviously doesn't provide much insight into Powell's sudden about-face in early 2003 on whether to invade Iraq, it does provide a great deal of background and context to allow Americans to understand that Powell probably felt he exhausted his options and had no choice but to support Bush's policy or to resign. It also makes plain Powell's disdain for Dick Cheney. Clearly, Powell did not expect to be working again so closely with Cheney when he published My American Journey.
Powell's lessons are inspirational. There is a reason that Colin Powell is one of the most admired leaders in America, and his autobiography makes clear that he cares about his troops and his employees. Strange, then, that he would have forced his Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs to "retire" in 2002 rather than stand up to the pressure he must have been under from the press and other government colleagues, including, perhaps, his boss, in the wake of numerous visa scandals. That she was one of the most respected and successful Foreign Service Officers shows that even such bigger-than-life heroes as Powell are only human after all.
My American Journey includes some of Powell's setbacks as well as his achievements. His vignette about a poor efficiency report he received at a crucial stage in his career helped me deal with a similar run-in with my boss. I practically quoted Powell to my boss, but was a bit more active than Powell has himself come across. (Powell essentially resigned himself to finding a new job.) In the end, Powell's first rule prevailed: "It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning."
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on March 29, 2015
I enjoyed reading GEN Powell's biography. The hard copy of his book has been sitting on my shelf but I decided to read the Kindle version instead because of my traveling. His life truly epitomizes the American Dream born from Jamaican immigrant parents and rising to the highest ranks in the Army then Sec. Of State. Throughout his military career at the Pentagon, GEN Powell walked a fine line to balance his civilian-military relationships which, helped prepare him as a diplomat. What's so transparent about his book is that how his life experiences formulated his political views of being fiscally conservative yet socially conscience. I recently had a chance to listen to him give a speech at Ft. Leavenworth, KS during a ceremony unveiling his statue. SEC and GEN Powell delivered an eloquent speech that I could almost hear his voice read out loud directly from his book. A true statesman and Soldier! I highly recommend this book!
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on April 9, 2001
Colin Powell is a many-faceted, intelligent man. He is also quite modest. I'd decided to read this book mainly because I wanted to know more about our current Secretary of State. I usually don't care for biographies about figures still living and I fully expected not to finish this one, however Powell's story about his rise from the streets of the Bronx to the White House captivated me.
My only quibble was that I found his time spent on Army commands much more fascinating than the time spent in the White House. Powell himself tried throughout his career to remain in command of troops but he kept being pulled back to Washington because of the excellent job he could do. The book may have suffered just a bit from bloat but on the whole I found it an interesting study of a good man.
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on September 9, 2000
Despite its whopping size, the book was never dull to read. We read about his family & upbringing; the people that inspired him to do better; mostly his military career; his involvement with 4 different US Presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton); the campaigns that he was involved in, such as Desert Shields, Desert Storm, Restore Hope, Just Cause. This book also displayed the passing of time with the ending of Cold War, the changing of emphasis from overseas adventure towards domestic issues in USA, the breaking down of race barrier, the recognition of sexual orientation issue in the military. It's interesting to read also about the diversity of personalities that Colin worked with. Collin took the opportunity here to correct a few misconceptions that the public had over his handling or involvement over several issues such as the Iran Contra scandal, his support of Bill Clinton as the Chief Commander, the aftermath of the Iraqi war which he refused to continue the advance towards Iraq itself, etc. This book was a reminder to all of us that everything is possible should we set our hearts into it. That's what American dream is all about, the land of opportunity is out there as long as you are willing enough to take the chance no matter how many times you might fall. Colin, did however stressed about the derailment of America's society over depicting too much sex & violence in media & how that would inhibit the healthy upbringing of the younger generations that would form the backbone of the future America. With the advent of movies such as There's Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber, Scary Movie, Me Myself & Irene, there's an element of truth in it, don't you agree? You don't need to be an American to appreciate the positive attitudes that Colin tried to convey in his book. If there's a little bit of Colin in every & each of us, this world would have been a more peaceful place, don't you reckon? Easy flow writing complemented by plenty of pictures tracing his life from childhood to his life as a public speaker. Highly recommended.
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on February 27, 2007
Stories abound in the US government about simple acts of kindness that Colin Powell showed to employees. But the stories I love the best are the ones told by Arabs, Latinos, Asians and Africans. People everyone seem to love to hate the US, but they consistently agree on two things ... Colin Powell and the Bill of Rights.

This book is a simple, clear picture of life and work. One of the only complaints I've heard about him came from Panamanian military men who dislike him because he planned Operation Just Cause, the air assault and arrest of Manual Noriega in Panama. This, also, is detailed in his biography.

But by far the thing I love the most and perhaps the thing that my Asian, Arab and Latin brothers love the most about Colin Powell is that he came from humble beginings and doesn't hide it nor seem to be ashamed of it. And that despite his rather average (by global standards) family life and upbringing, he rose to be one of the most significant and powerful men in the world.

People in South America love to talk about how he got off the plane in a full, formal black suit. "Why?" they ask. Because he respects us, they explain.

Somehow everyone feels like they are kin to Colin. His courtesy and kindness, his genuine character and true grit developed through the hard knocks of the Vietname war and surviving a couple of the more racist decades of U.S. history. Interestingly, while he accounts the negative aspects of his life's history ... combat, racism, struggles, he seems to find a spark of inspiration in all things good and bad.

Maybe that's way he has such a following throughout the globe.
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on November 23, 2014
This is a great book. I have been reading a lot of autobiogrophies and biogrophies lately and this is by far the best I have discovered. It reads like a novel. I can't believe some studio has not make it into a major motion picture. You will beam with pride in our country, you will honor the armed forces and you will be so impressed with a man who has served his country all of his carrer. Lots of inside the whitehouse scenes. I really learned a lot about the army as I didn't have the privilage to serve.
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on April 14, 2003
This book does an excellent job of bringing to light the trials and troubles assoicated with war, and more importantly when we should go to war and why war is neccesary. People in today's social climate need to read this book for the part alone. However this book offers much more.
Powell is truly an inspiration. His journey to Sec of State is remarkable,(although this book is only written up to his stint with George Bush Sr and his short relationship with Bill Clinton.) Powell is humble in his approach yet there are times where he sounds off against some of the people he has ran across during his carrer. He reveals a Ronald Regan who was not always there, who listened to Nancy maybe too much, and put to much faith into astrology.
Powell stands up for what he thinks right, despite what others say. You get the idea that Powell is neither confident calling himself a Rep or Dem. He is what he is and perhaps, that, more than anything, is why he did not run for president. However, after reading this book I would certainly have no qualms about casting my vote for Powell for President if he ever decides to run.
A lengthy book with perhaps too much detail in some parts. Some parts are hard to stay focused in on, however all in all a very good book. One of the best points of the book cover how you must have an objective going into a war. You have to quantify objectives so you know when results are achieved. Iraqi Freedom is an execellent display of this, and perhaps is why this war did what Desert Storm could not: topple Saddam.
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on January 17, 2014
I have to say I have read this book so many times I have memorized most the passages.

Gen. Powell provides us with the tapestry of his life. He came from immigrant parents and was directionless most of his youth. When he got to CCNY and joined the Pershing Rifles (Army ROTC), he found his calling and his career. He describes his love for the miltary, especially the Army, and for his country. But he also is able to step back and reveal flaws of himself and the career that he loves.

This is an American story. General Powell is a man that I admire as a service member, a family man, and a diplomat. Well done, sir.
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This autobiography covers Collin Powell's life from early childhood through retirement from the Army, with a few post-Army experiences. At the time of its writing he clearly did not anticipate serving as Secretary of State or in any other future high-visibility position. It was the intended capstone of his public career. The book is well-stocked with a readable selection of anecdotes from Powell's family, military and political lives.

Perhaps of even greater value are the lessons Powell draws from these experiences. Some are succinct, like Powell's Rules written on scraps of paper kept on his desk. They include "Get mad, then get over it," "Officers always eat last," and "Share credit." Others are longer statements of personal philosophy or perspective. Here are nine of Collin Powell's hard-won lessons:

- "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off."
- "Never be without a watch, a pencil, and a notepad."
- "Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."
- "With vision only, you get no follow-through. With enforcers only, the vision is realized, but leaves a lot of wreckage. Good chaplains pick up the pieces and put everything together again." [On three complementary leadership styles.]
- "I had long since learned to cope with Army management fashions. You pay the king his shilling, get him off your back, and then go about doing what you consider important."
- "The staff meeting served one useful purpose, however. It stroked the participants' egos and made them feel like part of the team."
- "There was a lot of talk about Powell the `reluctant warrior.' Guilty. War is a deadly game and I do not believe in spending the lives of Americans lightly."
- "The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise."
- "Reject the easy path of victimhood. Dare to take the harder path of work and commitment, a path that leads somewhere."

There are longer lessons, too. Along with thoughtful portraits of military and political leaders, on-the-ground accounts of historical events, and candid assessments of U.S. military capability from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan. Powell is critical while remaining respectful, and cautionary while remaining optimistic. His own account of his life and service to his country is worth reading and enjoying. It is highly recommended.
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on July 7, 2015
From the first paragraph I knew this would be a book I couldn't put down. Powell creates a story so powerful it is almost a novel. It is up beat but doesn't slide over the hard knocks. I found myself checking to see how I would measure up in similar situations. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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