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My American Journey PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: My American Journey
Author: Colin Powell
Publisher: Published March 4th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published September 1995)
ISBN: 9780345466419
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Colin Powell is the embodiment of the American dream. He was born in Harlem to immigrant parents from Jamaica. He knew the rough life of the streets. He overcame a barely average start at school. Then he joined the Army. The rest is history—Vietnam, the Pentagon, Panama, Desert Storm—but a history that until now has been known only on the surface. Here, for the first time, Colin Powell is the embodiment of the American dream. He was born in Harlem to immigrant parents from Jamaica. He knew the rough life of the streets. He overcame a barely average start at school. Then he joined the Army. The rest is history—Vietnam, the Pentagon, Panama, Desert Storm—but a history that until now has been known only on the surface. Here, for the first time, Colin Powell himself tells us how it happened, in a memoir distinguished by a heartfelt love of country and family, warm good humor, and a soldier's directness. My American Journey is the powerful story of a life well lived and well told. It is also a view from the mountaintop of the political landscape of America. At a time when Americans feel disenchanted with their leaders. General Powell's passionate views on family, personal responsibility, and, in his own words, "the greatness of America and the opportunities it offers" inspire hope and present a blueprint for the future. An utterly absorbing account, it is history with a vision.

30 review for My American Journey

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane Wallace

    Wonderful read! about his leadership,experience,honor,army and public life...well written (paperback!)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    East never meet West concept is true in the case of this book .While almost all reviewers, mostly Westerners gave it a very good to good rating, being an Easterner I am going to give it a C minus ! Here is the reason : The Chinese - Viet-Namese concept of The NOBLEST WARRIOR ( loosely translate the word QUAN TU ) is HE WHO DOES NOT ATTRACT TO WEALTH, DOES NOT CHANGE WHEN BEING DESTITUTE, and DOES NOT submit TO OVERWHELMING physical POWER ( Phu quy bat nang dam, ban tien bat nang di,uy vu bat nang East never meet West concept is true in the case of this book .While almost all reviewers, mostly Westerners gave it a very good to good rating, being an Easterner I am going to give it a C minus ! Here is the reason : The Chinese - Viet-Namese concept of The NOBLEST WARRIOR ( loosely translate the word QUAN TU ) is HE WHO DOES NOT ATTRACT TO WEALTH, DOES NOT CHANGE WHEN BEING DESTITUTE, and DOES NOT submit TO OVERWHELMING physical POWER ( Phu quy bat nang dam, ban tien bat nang di,uy vu bat nang khuat) (Viet Nam is the correct form," Vietnam " , contrary to this common usage is not correct) Colin Powell, judged by the above Eastern measure fails miserably ! In this memoir, he confessed of constantly seeking ways to improve his station in life, from the son of the poorest family in Harlem to eventual the highest military rank officer in the land. Who can blame him ? In fact most reviewers gave him the highest praise for this success . But the QUAN TU tenet is there for a purpose : THE NOBLEST WARRIOR SHALL NOT SEEK WEALTH , perhaps because WEALTH corrupts ! .True enough,Powell faithfully obeyed his employer, the American Government, to the extent of participating in the Viet Nam war as an "advisor " From his very pen, he admitted that his stint in Viet Nam was a big waste of time , all his "advises" were either not applicable for the reality of the battlefield or ignored by the South Viet Nam military units he attached to ! Aside to that, here is the most important thing I would like to argue: Why he ordered, or agreed to the cruel and morally wrong tactic of destroying the ethnic highlander villages and crops? He offered the reason : to deny the Viet Cong the necessary support . For me this argument is the most stupid one in the most stupid and dirty war, condemned by almost all people in the world ! He described the ludicrous tactic of the local military unit that he advised: formed a single line of soldiers, walked through the jungle to attract the V C guerrillas to draw them into a fight.Of course this hare brain scheme did not work and a predictable end result of death and injury to the unit is easy to understand ! Unfortunately, no one seemed to understand , the "adviser" included ! But the most stupid action was the participation of the American troops in this war.This action was a blatant disregard of the sovereignty of the Vietnamese people.What right the American has to enter our soil or for this mater any country soil regardless of any and all excuses ? The US government answer to this question was : To fight the spread of communism ! Fine, go fight in your land.Who gave the American government the right to "liberate", to "contain the spread of communism" , to bring "democracy" to a sovereign nation ? The Vietnamese people knew too well, from their long history of struggle against the Chinese ,the Mongol,the Japanese and the French invasions,colonialism, imperialism ---That ALL foreign armies were merely there for a sole purpose of killing and robbing They were not stupid ! How can the American governments hope to continue to kill, pillage and robe from such a resilient fighters throughout thousand years of defeating ALL FOREIGN INVADERS including the most fearsome pirates like the Mongols ? His obedience was amazing ! Throughout his memoir , there was not one tiny trace of doubt about the justification of the Viet-Nam war, despite the peace movement waged by many people in the whole world and in America, including a fellow black man,Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.!And why should he ? He was "serving " his country ( Oh , really !) , beside, he is a soldier, he was train to kill , not to do "politic" . He was trying to rationalize his apathy toward the human right movement waged by many activists, black and white, including Dr. King, to the extend of swallow his pride and indignation of being treated badly for being a person of color when he was being outside of the special society of military : while driving from one place to a new place to accept a new assignment, a promotion in rank and responsibility in fact, he has to hold his urge of release of his bladder until he can find a bathroom that allow a black person like himself to use .It was blind to the fact that despite his skin color, he was high ranking military officer on the way to accept a new, higher duty ! Throughout his memoir, he keep crowing about how wonderful the military was.It was color blind, it gave a person regardless of skin color a fair chance to advance his status, as opposite to the outside world where discrimination against minority was rampant . Powell did not realize that the reason for this phenomena is easy enough to understand: Military traditionally is looked down upon by most people. It is consider as a place where people with nowhere to go come or for others it is the last resort . Do you see a lot of rich people or their offspring in there ? Sure, not a lot but some, for example G W Bush Jr, right ? But where he was actually ? OMG, National Guard , of all places ! The point is Powell failed to see or pretend NOT to see the above facts,and keep babbling about how great military society was,totally ignore the reality facing most other colored people, leaving the struggle for racial equality for others,while participating in the war of his people oppressors, furthering his personal ambition of fame and fortune in the process but causing much suffering and destruction to another people of color! He also had a delusion about how heroic and successful he was. Viet Nam was a fiasco, no question about that.He conveniently choose to forget to elaborate about his and the US government failure in it .Instead,he went on and on about how great a guy , how successful he was , participating in one high military and government position to the other positions, achieving numerous objectives. But in the end,what actually is his great achievement? Viet Nam war ( Hah )or Desert Storm ? Let me tell you :He was no war hero ( "no" becoming an acceptable wrong usage ,almost killed the correct "not" !) Desert Storm, sorry Gen. Scwharzkopf and Gen. Powell, was a kid play ,a piece of cake, any seasoned , battle tested army sergeant can carry it out successfully !Thus you two are NO hero! DO I NEED TO ELABORATE ?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    Back in March 2007, I had the opportunity to attend breakfast of the International Housewares Association. It was here that I was an arms length from Colin Powell as he gave his speech. As he provided short glimpses of events and accomplishments in his life I recall that I had to read his autobiography. Now a little over three years later I finally accomplished that by reading “My American Journey” by Colin Powell. I found it fascinating the story of how Mr. Powell’s life twisted from his early y Back in March 2007, I had the opportunity to attend breakfast of the International Housewares Association. It was here that I was an arms length from Colin Powell as he gave his speech. As he provided short glimpses of events and accomplishments in his life I recall that I had to read his autobiography. Now a little over three years later I finally accomplished that by reading “My American Journey” by Colin Powell. I found it fascinating the story of how Mr. Powell’s life twisted from his early years, through his solider years to his Washington years and retirement. While the majority of the book gave a good overview of Mr. Powell’s life, I found the Desert Storm sections the most difficult to make it through. It just didn’t seem to flow as well as the other parts of the book. Perhaps it was the topic, but it seemed like just a retelling of the events of the war during this time. That said, the primary reason I wanted to read this book was for any words of wisdom or bits of knowledge, and I was not disappointed. “Being in charge means making decision, no matter how unpleasant. If it’s broke, fix it. When you do, you win the gratitude of the people who have been suffering under the bad situation”…”You cannot let the mission suffer, or make the majority pay to spare the feelings of an individual.” “Leadership is solving problems. The day a 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.” Colin Powell’s Rules 1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. 2. Get mad, then get over it. 3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. 4. It can be done! 5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it. 6. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours. 7. Check small things. 8. Share credit 9. Remain calm. Be kind. 10. Have a vision. Be demanding. 11. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. 12. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This autobiography was highly recommended to me by my cousin, who is herself a war veteran. I half expected to be in over my head in military jargon, but I was pleasantly surprised. His writing is insightful and reflective, and I am walking away with the sense that I have a true picture of Powell's value system and basic personality. I also appreciated the fact that he doesn't take himself or his circumstances too seriously. He's actually got a great sense of humor, which is evident throughout t This autobiography was highly recommended to me by my cousin, who is herself a war veteran. I half expected to be in over my head in military jargon, but I was pleasantly surprised. His writing is insightful and reflective, and I am walking away with the sense that I have a true picture of Powell's value system and basic personality. I also appreciated the fact that he doesn't take himself or his circumstances too seriously. He's actually got a great sense of humor, which is evident throughout the book. I especially liked his descriptions of Gen. Hank Emerson (a.k.a. the Gunfighter) and his attempt to institute games like "combat" football and basketball, in an effort to make everyone feel like winners in the game of life. There really weren't rules to these games, and tackling, blocking, clipping, and blindsiding were accepted. Even better - whole units played each other, instead of your standard 11 and 5-man teams. Good stuff! For me, this book was informative and entertaining, but also inspirational. He has a passion for America and democracy that comes from his first-hand experiences with others who lack our freedoms and privileges. He also offers a lot of observations about quality leadership and personal integrity, and I think the lessons he's learned from his own experiences can be generalized, regardless of your situation in life. I think this, more than anything, makes this book one that I plan to revisit again in the future.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Read this years ago when it was first published and thought it was great!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    I read this book in chunks, and could not put it down, every moment I had free, that book was in my hand. General Powell is a very admirable person, someone who defeated the odds, and have endured a lot. This book should be required reading in schools, not because of the great story, but because it shows a small part of the bureaucratic machine in Washington, and how big decisions are made. Which I found fascinating. I loved the little stories that are shared with the reader, the stories you don' I read this book in chunks, and could not put it down, every moment I had free, that book was in my hand. General Powell is a very admirable person, someone who defeated the odds, and have endured a lot. This book should be required reading in schools, not because of the great story, but because it shows a small part of the bureaucratic machine in Washington, and how big decisions are made. Which I found fascinating. I loved the little stories that are shared with the reader, the stories you don't get from everyone, the little jokes and humanising character I only hear about in the news. I could not help but notice that the last part of the book is, or seems like, very self serving, where the General explains how he was right, while the others were wrong, and how he managed to come out as the good guy. I'm not doubting the man, but it seems a bit extricated, and becomes a bit too much. Still, this is a man who deserves admiration. At the end of the book there is a list of General Powell's Rules. I printed a copy and have it hanging in my office

  7. 5 out of 5

    Relstuart

    Excellent. Lot of great leadership advice.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marcie Lovett

    This is an extremely long book. I think it could have been more tightly edited and shorter. Colin Powell fills his memoir with historical significance, which made it even more interesting to me. I have to question how he remembers details from 40 years ago, though. Did he document all his conversations and keep a daily journal? The details make the stories interesting; however, his references to the people he quotes grow tiresome and the story would flow as well without so many of them. His multi This is an extremely long book. I think it could have been more tightly edited and shorter. Colin Powell fills his memoir with historical significance, which made it even more interesting to me. I have to question how he remembers details from 40 years ago, though. Did he document all his conversations and keep a daily journal? The details make the stories interesting; however, his references to the people he quotes grow tiresome and the story would flow as well without so many of them. His multiple remarks about how he was the first in his class or the youngest at everything he did are annoying. I get it, you're an overacheiver. I found myself skipping entire sections because I wanted to get to the end. I have met General Powell. He is a compelling speaker and a fine storyteller. I would have enjoyed his book more if it hadn't been so rambling.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arlene Starr

    I like how Colin Powell describes this book and will include a quote by him, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx and somehow rose to become the national Security Advisor to the President of the United States and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Is is mostly a story of hard work and good luck, of occasional rough times, but mostly good times. It is a story of service and soldiering. It is a st I like how Colin Powell describes this book and will include a quote by him, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx and somehow rose to become the national Security Advisor to the President of the United States and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Is is mostly a story of hard work and good luck, of occasional rough times, but mostly good times. It is a story of service and soldiering. It is a story about the people who helped make me what I am. It is a story of my benefiting from opportunities created by the sacrifice of those who went before me and maybe my benefiting those who will follow. It is a story of faith—faith in myself, and faith in America. Above all, it's a love story: love of family, of friends, of the Army, and of my country. It is a story that could only have happened in America.” That's it in a nutshell. I enjoyed the book. Having lived through a lot of the events that the author describes made it even more interesting. It was a journey not only through Colin Powell's life but for me a look back on the problems that people faced as I was growing up and making my way in life. I experienced through his writing a little of his family life as a child in the Bronx with strong family support, and problems they faced in making a living and getting ahead. The author joined the ROTC program and found something that he loved and did well. He became a Ranger and got his first foreign post in Germany in 1960. He finished graduate school at George Washington University in 1971, became a White House Fellow in 1972; a Battalion Commander in Korea; Brigadier General in 1982. As a military leader he worked under three presidents, Regan, Bush and Clinton. He sees himself as a fiscal conservative with a social conscience. He showed a good command of the English language. His writings exhibited a peripheral understanding of situations. He believed in having a definite mission before entering into conflicts. It's an incredible writing. You felt the high drama through his words when national and international conflicts were confronted and dealt with in the most effective way and with the least injury to anyone. You felt the emotion and saw the personalities of the individuals who were responsible for these strategies and decisions. My understanding of some events were broadened. His writings also opened up to his personal life with his wife and children, and family members and his favorite hobby, favorite music, etc. An individual can learn something from this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    W. Don

    I found this an interesting insight into a man who I have come to respect a great deal. General Powell takes us from his humble beginnings in a poorer section of New York, to the years immediately following his retirement from the Army in the mid-90s. I found his candor refreshing, his opinions presented fairly and graciously, and his insight "behind the scenes of power" through many dramatic geopolitical changes over the last 20 or so years to be interesting. I didn't realize he had served two t I found this an interesting insight into a man who I have come to respect a great deal. General Powell takes us from his humble beginnings in a poorer section of New York, to the years immediately following his retirement from the Army in the mid-90s. I found his candor refreshing, his opinions presented fairly and graciously, and his insight "behind the scenes of power" through many dramatic geopolitical changes over the last 20 or so years to be interesting. I didn't realize he had served two tours in Vietnam, that he - for a time - was in the Department of Energy where I work, and his service to President Carter in the late 1970s. I especially appreciated his insider's perspective into President Reagan's administration, and his time working for Casper Weinberger. He credits these men as being largely responsible for the dramatic turnaround of the US military in the early 1980s, following what he calls "the debacle of Vietnam". I experienced first hand that malaise in the late 1970s, and my enlistment ended the day before President Reagan took office for his first term. But I was privileged to work closely with the US Navy as a civilian in the late 1980s, and can attest personally to the dramatic changes that had occurred and were so evident between January 1981 and January 1985. After reading General Powell's perspective, the changes I observed make sense. This book ends before his years in the George W. Bush administration, and thus does not include his sensational (in my opinion) presentation before the United Nations making the case for intervention into Iraq after 9/11. I realize some people feel he participated in a lie by making that presentation, but if so, I believe that would have been be out of character for him - judging solely from my distant and historical perspective, to be fair. So, I look forward to reading his next book and learning about those later years as well. I would certainly include General Powell in my list of great Americans, and I can recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about him.

  11. 5 out of 5

    clark

    I really liked this book. It reads like a novel - engrossing and tough to put down. Powell and Persico (sp?) are great storytellers, and you get a true sense for the experiences that shaped Powell's perspective on leadership, the military, race relations, etc. I didn't love the brief asides on "leadership principles I took from this experience" - felt a little patronizing - but those were relatively infrequent and probably actually helpful. I was also surprised to really understand the extent to I really liked this book. It reads like a novel - engrossing and tough to put down. Powell and Persico (sp?) are great storytellers, and you get a true sense for the experiences that shaped Powell's perspective on leadership, the military, race relations, etc. I didn't love the brief asides on "leadership principles I took from this experience" - felt a little patronizing - but those were relatively infrequent and probably actually helpful. I was also surprised to really understand the extent to which Powell really views himself as a military man, not a politician or a bureaucrat who simply 'checked the box' on military service. Really a great (and quick) read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    I particularly enjoy biography and autobiography, and this is an outstanding one. Powell did so much -- from his career in the military to his service on the National Security Council -- and brilliantly recalls his close up and personal experiences with presidents and senior officials of the U.S. Government. I met him several times when he was Secretary of State (which period is not covered in the memoir), and never ceased being impressed by his ability to connect, to inspire and to set an examp I particularly enjoy biography and autobiography, and this is an outstanding one. Powell did so much -- from his career in the military to his service on the National Security Council -- and brilliantly recalls his close up and personal experiences with presidents and senior officials of the U.S. Government. I met him several times when he was Secretary of State (which period is not covered in the memoir), and never ceased being impressed by his ability to connect, to inspire and to set an example that transcended race, time and politics. This is a fascinating account of an American life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Breslin

    I read the updated edition of this book, the one with the surprise twist at the end. The one where the hero of the story, a man full of integrity, intelligence, sound judgement, clarity of thought, a passion for justice, and just a cornucopia of admirable qualities, foists a mishmash of lies and half-truths before the United Nations to justify going to war. I can't think of another book that I enjoyed so much, up until the very last part, and then wanted to hurl against the wall, filled with dis I read the updated edition of this book, the one with the surprise twist at the end. The one where the hero of the story, a man full of integrity, intelligence, sound judgement, clarity of thought, a passion for justice, and just a cornucopia of admirable qualities, foists a mishmash of lies and half-truths before the United Nations to justify going to war. I can't think of another book that I enjoyed so much, up until the very last part, and then wanted to hurl against the wall, filled with disappointment and a sense of betrayal. This was an odd reaction, because I read the book long after the sordid mess in Iraq unfolded and no weapons of mass destruction were ever located and any alleged ties between Iraq and Al-Qaeda were demonstrated to be be limited to the strangely u-less letter “q.” I already knew the ending, but somehow it still enraged and depressed me, because after slogging through 600 pages of Powell’s extraordinary life story, my admiration for him had been ratcheted up sky-high, only to come crashing down and land in a pile of doo-doo. There is so much upon which General Powell and I agree. Like him, I am disturbed by extremism on both the left and right. I agree with his point, oft-made throughout this book, that racial injustice has been and continues to be a central problem facing our nation. I also agree wholeheartedly with him that the U.S. and the west were on the right side of the Cold War, that free markets (with some sensible regulation) are an essentially good thing, that communism was a bad idea, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was a wonderful development for the entire world. Colin and I are on the same page with regard to all these things. We are also both fond of rum. His life is a classic American success story. Son of immigrant parents rises from humble beginnings in New York City, overcomes entrenched racism, and rises to become one of the most powerful people in the world. Especially moving was his account of coming home from Vietnam where he risked life and limb on behalf of his nation, only to be denied service at a restaurant on the basis of the pigments in his epidermis. Hundreds of pages of powerful imagery of this sort permeate the book. Examinations of racism and overcoming racism, from the perspective of someone uniquely qualified to opine on the subject. Ideas about how unclear political objectives inevitably lead to a floundering misuse of military power. And perhaps most powerful, inspirational and ironic: He describes his efforts to persuade other key military leaders to downsize the U.S. military in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and illustrates the reluctance on the behalf of many of them to read the writing on the wall, their insistence that we need to be prepared for a non-existent threat. On this point, General Powell is crystal clear: “I predicted Soviet military budget cuts of 40% , manpower cuts of 50%, a cap on naval shipbuilding . . . by 1994: no Soviet Forces in Eastern Europe, Warsaw Pact replaced, East Germany gone, all Eastern-bloc countries neutral states with multiparty systems. . . I began matching these projections to a commensurate strength and structure for the U.S. military . . . These levels would be tough to sell to Cheney.” “Another cost cutter: the Army wanted a new radio jammer to thwart Soviet commando attacks in NATO’s rear. What attacks? What rear? What Soviets? We cut the request and $200 million more was saved.” In a chapter entitled “When you’ve lost your best enemy,” he eloquently describes the natural tendency of military institutions to create an enemy even when there isn’t one. He had a front row seat to the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the unwillingness on the behalf of many of his colleagues to even acknowledge that we had had the imprudence to actually go and win the Cold War. That’s why the very last part of the book, added after its initial publication, is so very very disappointing. Because in that chapter (a transcript of the 2003 speech before the UN Security Council, outlining the alleged urgent need to invade Iraq ) Powell does exactly what we readers have just spent hundreds of pages admiring what he has stood up against. This was a reminder of the disappointment I and others felt after the details of that speech were revealed to be of an unmistakably bovine fecal nature, thousands of lives and a couple of trillion dollars too late. Because many of us didn’t put a lot of stock in the integrity of Dick Cheney or the judgement of George Bush, but felt that this guy, at least, was someone you could trust. In a 2016 interview, Powell expresses great regret for those remarks to the U.N., admitting that the intelligence on which the decision to invade Iraq was based was deeply deeply flawed. I hope that any future editions of the book will include an addendum to the addendum. I think Star Wars has taught us that having a good guy seduced by the dark side of The Force is a great way to advance a plot, but it’s so much more satisfying when he becomes a good guy again at the end. ___________________________________________________ P.S. If you don’t agree with my politics, that’s totally okay with me. You are entitled to your worldview, but please believe me when I say that I am not the slightest bit interested in trying to convince you that you are wrong, nor listen to you explain why you think I am wrong. I’m pretty sure there exist places on the internet where people engage in that sort of thing. I am not so sure than anyone has ever actually successfully convinced anyone else that they were wrong about anything, but hey, hope springs eternal. Go for it! Just not here. Thanks and have a great day.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shira

    I read this book nearly ten years ago, and his experience of seeing a Vietnamese monk perform a self-immolation in front of the US embassy still confounds me. -In Service to Community Cooperation for All Humanity, Shira MEOW Date: Monday, May 20. 12014 H.E. (Holocene Era)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Seana

    I absolutely love this man. If he were to run for President, I would vote for him in a heartbeat. The best part of this book is the part where he CLEARLY states the pronunciation of his name, which is Cah-lin, not Coh-lin as so many people think.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Again, I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet. This book was a bit outside my usual reading habits, but Tony Blauer had it on his list of recommendations, so I thought it would be worth checking out. And I was right. It was worth it. As the title implies, My American Journey is the story of how Colin Powell went from sub-average school student of Jamaican immigrants in the Bronx to being the commander of the one of the most powerful militaries in the world. It is a quintessential rags-to-r Again, I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet. This book was a bit outside my usual reading habits, but Tony Blauer had it on his list of recommendations, so I thought it would be worth checking out. And I was right. It was worth it. As the title implies, My American Journey is the story of how Colin Powell went from sub-average school student of Jamaican immigrants in the Bronx to being the commander of the one of the most powerful militaries in the world. It is a quintessential rags-to-riches sort of story that many Americans enjoy as children and dismiss as propaganda as teenagers (adults fall on all sides of the debate, of course). This is all nice, of course, but not necessarily worthwhile reading on its own. There are plenty of books that tell a similar kind of story, either factual or fictional, and if all you want is a feel good read, this isn't necessarily what you want. Powell works his way through the story of his life with a level of introspection that might surprise readers who expect him to be a military-minded thug. His voice comes across as honest and genuine, and he is more than willing to admit when he thinks mistakes were made--especially if they were his own. This may be a success story, but it's not one where the author is gloating; Powell acknowledges when he screwed up, if he feels he does. And he acknowledges when OTHER people thought he screwed up, even if he doesn't think so. And that, really, is what makes the book so fascinating; not just the life Powell has lived, which is admittedly impressive an interesting, but the way he thinks about that life. The book is a fantastic insight into the thinking of a very successful man. Even if you find his politics abhorrent, his thought processes are still worth understanding and thinking about. This is a man who knows how to succeed, and there's a lot to be learned from this.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trissa

    After watching Powell announce his support of Barack Obama on Meet The Press, I wanted to know if the criticism he received for doing so was appropriate. I wanted to know how this man climbed the ranks of the military so quickly and how all this intersected with his racial identity. The criticism (being called a traitor) wasn't appropriate. He believes in fiscal responsibilty and that is the only match I see with the republican party. He served Reagan and Bush because it was his duty. His strong After watching Powell announce his support of Barack Obama on Meet The Press, I wanted to know if the criticism he received for doing so was appropriate. I wanted to know how this man climbed the ranks of the military so quickly and how all this intersected with his racial identity. The criticism (being called a traitor) wasn't appropriate. He believes in fiscal responsibilty and that is the only match I see with the republican party. He served Reagan and Bush because it was his duty. His strong respect for the chain of command and his duty to his country (and the men and women serving it) was a strong force. He was brought into each new position as an implement of change. For every appointment he had, he couldn't wait to get back to the military. And in every position he made major changes(he reduced the size of the military after the cold war - no a popular idea at the time and don't ask, don't tell was his idea). Never afraid of being on the wrong side, he spoke his mind. This master of compromise and change was called on time and time again to fix things, make things work. Powell said something that I think sums up his view of his racial identity in the context of Black American progress: You need to pull yourself up by the boot straps. The problem is, not everyone has boot straps. All you have to do is read the last few pages to see how similar his philosophies and political nature are to Obama. Lastly, I really enjoyed hearing Powell's view on war so many years before the Iraq war. Very interesting. I look forward to another book by Powell, filling me in on the last 13 years.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Thoroughly enjoyed. This one is worth highlighting and tabbing. Like books of other prominent warriors, it seems oddly thin on the mechanics and tactics of being a warrior. However, it does include a handy list of his principles at the end. One dislike is his falling into the trap of "too nice to be a Republican" generalities. These are generally (no puns intended) toward the end of the book and don't distract too much. You sense he's a warm personality whom you would like. ----- Aug 7, 2015 Eventu Thoroughly enjoyed. This one is worth highlighting and tabbing. Like books of other prominent warriors, it seems oddly thin on the mechanics and tactics of being a warrior. However, it does include a handy list of his principles at the end. One dislike is his falling into the trap of "too nice to be a Republican" generalities. These are generally (no puns intended) toward the end of the book and don't distract too much. You sense he's a warm personality whom you would like. ----- Aug 7, 2015 Eventually I decided to get rid of this book. Still excellent, but took a lot of space to say some things that to me are more concisely stated in Harari's The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell. I'm having a hard time with Powell's lecture circuit statement that all China wants is space on Wal-Mart shelves. - Was that the case when China wanted our EP-3E and Powell was made to apologize for it? After they took enough electronic technology to boost them by decades and shamed us by not letting it fly out except in crates? - Was that the case when China got involved in Korea? Vietnam? - Is that the case now in the South China Sea? - Are they going to sell any Dongfeng-21 aircraft carrier killer missiles in Wal-Mart? - Isn't that why they're confident of being jerks in the South China Sea? Because they know that we won't stand up to them? And that Powell could have been in a position to affect these things long ago when they were able to be affected? How about the choices that led to Iraq II, which led to ISIS? So, still good, but not gospel, and if someone of my position can see what was going to happen, why not a general and Secretary of State?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vinay

    Although I love well-written biographies and autobiographies, they are fairly difficult to come by. It is a tricky art to balance describing someone's value system and learnings while telling a compelling story (I thought Ed Catmull's Creativity Inc, for example, became too preachy at times, although it is a great book too). Colin Powell manages this well - My American Journey was one of the best autobiographies I have read in a while. Parts of it were so good that I broke one of my cardinal rul Although I love well-written biographies and autobiographies, they are fairly difficult to come by. It is a tricky art to balance describing someone's value system and learnings while telling a compelling story (I thought Ed Catmull's Creativity Inc, for example, became too preachy at times, although it is a great book too). Colin Powell manages this well - My American Journey was one of the best autobiographies I have read in a while. Parts of it were so good that I broke one of my cardinal rules - I began marking out paragraphs I liked with a pencil. I liked two specific parts about the book. One was Colin Powell's widely publicized views on leadership - he does a fantastic job of sharing how he sees leaderships and lessons he picked up along the way. Essentially, the stories behind his thirteen rules. The other was his experience in Government - A democratically elected Government is a intriguing, confusing world. Powell says it well, "Democracy is give and take. People have to trade, change, deal retreat, bend, compromise, as they move from the ideal to the possible. To the uninitiated, the process can be messy, disappointing, even shocking." His experiences as the JCS and his year as a White House Fellow were my favourite parts of the book. His opinions of US Presidents were fascinating too (Reagan is an interesting character). Admittedly, there were times when he sounded pompous, with paragraphs of American exceptionalism, and I do not agree with all his views (allowing gays to openly serve in the army etc.), but it was a very engaging read. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gino

    80% of success is showing up. CP showed up & I give him 4 of 5 stars. The writing isn't great but it shows up, ie it is good enough to keep you going if the subject itself interests you. It wasn't entirely clear WHY he was so successful, but CP was always willing to show up & I guess CP's other 20% included accomplishing the mission, taking care of the people below him, taking care of the people above him, being effective but also somewhat vanilla, as in not controversial. I am suspicious 80% of success is showing up. CP showed up & I give him 4 of 5 stars. The writing isn't great but it shows up, ie it is good enough to keep you going if the subject itself interests you. It wasn't entirely clear WHY he was so successful, but CP was always willing to show up & I guess CP's other 20% included accomplishing the mission, taking care of the people below him, taking care of the people above him, being effective but also somewhat vanilla, as in not controversial. I am suspicious that a big part of the other 20% was 1 or 2 of the tip-top brass who always had CP's back, partly due to the fact that he excelled so often & partly due to race. It would have been nice to get more insight into exactly who those 1 or 2 patrons were. I'd say those 1 or 2 were the reason he was constantly being shuffled around into out-of-the-ordinary positions. They were grooming him, broadening him & checking off all the boxes that anyone could use for or against him . Tidbits to remember: Reagan does not come off at all well in this. Reagan comes off as entirely veneer. otoh, Weinberger & Carlucci are highly praised. He slammed Hudachek left, right & center. The # of moves his family had to go through was astounding. They showed up as much as CP. Maybe the most surprising tidbit was that while CP was busy in his rise in DC, he was buying nearly dead Volvos, rebuilding them & selling them. There is nothing like routine manual labor to take the mind off intense politics.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rodney

    In reading this book I am so inspired by the hard work and determination that General Powell, Security Advisor Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and yes Secretary of State Powell. This man has beat all the odds and has become an American Icon for many who seek the goals and dreams of an American dream and Hero. While his affiliation with the republican party has somewhat dampened my political views he has, yet his amazing journey has inspired me to call him and American Hereo, and yes I dare In reading this book I am so inspired by the hard work and determination that General Powell, Security Advisor Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and yes Secretary of State Powell. This man has beat all the odds and has become an American Icon for many who seek the goals and dreams of an American dream and Hero. While his affiliation with the republican party has somewhat dampened my political views he has, yet his amazing journey has inspired me to call him and American Hereo, and yes I dare not to say this, but I see General Powell as a leader of morals and great character. This book will tell you of the journey he took through child hood, not being a great student but finding out that through hard work and dedication that you can do anything that you put your mind and heart into. The courage and strength he showed by not running for President because of the time and dangerous missions that he went through as a young officer in the Korean and Vietnam wars's. This man could have very well been the first African American President, and yet his convictions and Love for his wife and family remains the steadfastness of his wonderful life. This is a book that will lead you and inspire you!!!!! Rod

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edwin Martin

    I thought I rated and reviewed this earlier, but it didn't save on my smart phone? Anyway, This is the best, most readable first person account I've read about the behind the scenes workings, (when things did seem to work a bit better than today) of Washington, D.C. Other famous Americans have interesting biographies of their earlier life as does Gen. Powell, but he still kept me interested when the setting was inside the Pentgagon or the White House where he was not in charge and spent time "gr I thought I rated and reviewed this earlier, but it didn't save on my smart phone? Anyway, This is the best, most readable first person account I've read about the behind the scenes workings, (when things did seem to work a bit better than today) of Washington, D.C. Other famous Americans have interesting biographies of their earlier life as does Gen. Powell, but he still kept me interested when the setting was inside the Pentgagon or the White House where he was not in charge and spent time "greasing wheels", "changing tires" and such; comparing this book to the two President's bios that come to mind of Johnson (series by Caro) and Reagan (autobio), both of which were very tedious to read once they got to Washington. Nice to know his favorite hobby is working on old cars, and he likes to drive them as well as talk about them. I have since looked at local libraries for an update since his book ends in 1994, but only found "It Worked For Me" which is new 2012, but is just chapters of lessons learned on leadership and life and not a chronological bio of what happened. If you can reccommend a more current bio of Powell that includes his years as Sec. of State and beyond, please send me a message.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    Colin Powell is one of my heroes. I know he has his detractors left and right. Those on the left bristle that he served in the Reagan and both Bush administrations and blame him for the Iraq War. Those on the right that he endorsed Obama. I guess it tips my hat as to which team I root for, but no, I'm not particularly happy about the second, though I don't really blame him for what went pears up on the first. But however I felt about that, what he accomplished, especially given his background is Colin Powell is one of my heroes. I know he has his detractors left and right. Those on the left bristle that he served in the Reagan and both Bush administrations and blame him for the Iraq War. Those on the right that he endorsed Obama. I guess it tips my hat as to which team I root for, but no, I'm not particularly happy about the second, though I don't really blame him for what went pears up on the first. But however I felt about that, what he accomplished, especially given his background is still extraordinary. This particular biography dates from before his period as the (first African American) Secretary of State, some readers may be disappointed it doesn't get into what some might find the most interesting and controversial period of his service. But it does cover his life from his early days to his formative time as an officer during the Vietnam War and his generalship during the Gulf War. The story I remember the best though comes from his teenage years, when he got a summer job mopping floors--and determined to be the best floor mopper he possibly could. Such a little thing--but said to me a lot about his character and the reason for his success.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gali Valiente

    Although this book started rather slow with Powell's early days as a cadet and his early military career in Vietnam and the cold war era, the later chapters made up for it. His days going through the ranks up to becoming Joint Chief of Staff is described in detail that only an insider and major decision maker can go through. He reveals his thoughts in his dealings with Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, other world leaders. Not only he shares their discussions but what Powell thinks of these worl Although this book started rather slow with Powell's early days as a cadet and his early military career in Vietnam and the cold war era, the later chapters made up for it. His days going through the ranks up to becoming Joint Chief of Staff is described in detail that only an insider and major decision maker can go through. He reveals his thoughts in his dealings with Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, other world leaders. Not only he shares their discussions but what Powell thinks of these world leaders. Decisions that are vividly articulated like you were listening to them when they discuss major decisions that impact the entire world. Of course, he will leave out what we are not supposed to know. He even touched on an event that impacted my own country - he claimed that the US 'flexed their muscle' to scare coup plotters into submission in a 1989 coup against then President Cory. Overall this book is entertaining and educational at the same time. Educational because you learn about history and the many lessons in leadership that he articulates with how he learned them the hard way - every leader (or aspiring) should know.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Redparrot

    One of the most profoundly inspiring books on leadership ever. Wonderfully written, it covers the life story of one of the most inspiring leaders of our time. He retraces his military career and gives an inside look at some of the major events of the end of the 20th century. He also outlines his famous 13 Rules of Leadership - which is a must-have for anyone leading anything as small as a guide pack to a multi-continent military operation. One of his most famous quotations ... "when did you start One of the most profoundly inspiring books on leadership ever. Wonderfully written, it covers the life story of one of the most inspiring leaders of our time. He retraces his military career and gives an inside look at some of the major events of the end of the 20th century. He also outlines his famous 13 Rules of Leadership - which is a must-have for anyone leading anything as small as a guide pack to a multi-continent military operation. One of his most famous quotations ... "when did you start moving troops towards the border?" He answers ... "the day the war started". For anyone who has read The Art of War, this simple exchange is the secret code recognized by strategists. This makes a great double bill with Gen Schwartzkopf's autobiography. They are military contemporaries and both cover the same point in history. The General's book is also a wickedly profound book on leadership as well. While he does not distill his ideas into 13 rules, he nonetheless has a hard lock on the four f's of army leadership. Both must reads ...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This book was published over 20 years ago which makes it very much like watching a West Wing Re-Run or a Newsroom Episode on Amazon Prime: you can see the world with 20/20 hindsight. For me that made the last third of this book which was about Operation Desert Storm even more interesting. Maybe comparing it to two televisions shows isn't right. It is more of a mix of My Beloved by Sonia Sotomayor and It Doesn't Take a Her by H. Norman Schwarzkopf. The truth is that Colin Powell has led a fascinat This book was published over 20 years ago which makes it very much like watching a West Wing Re-Run or a Newsroom Episode on Amazon Prime: you can see the world with 20/20 hindsight. For me that made the last third of this book which was about Operation Desert Storm even more interesting. Maybe comparing it to two televisions shows isn't right. It is more of a mix of My Beloved by Sonia Sotomayor and It Doesn't Take a Her by H. Norman Schwarzkopf. The truth is that Colin Powell has led a fascinating life: he served post WWII in Germany, in Vietnam, Korea, and through Desert Storm. His long-range view of the military was helpful for a civilian like me. I love to read how highly-successful, service-orientated people were raised (and how they raised their families). There was much that I wanted to discuss in this book including his inter-cultural marriage, his thoughts on serving others, education, and race.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This book deepened my already substantial respect for General Colin Powell. I did set the book down a couple of times in the beginning (it is very heavy). As he started writing about events I lived through, I gained new perspectives and became totally immersed in this reader-friendly memoir. I found I finished the last 2/3 of the book in a reading marathon. This book has a lot of gentle humor woven in and out. Couldn't help grinning how Colin addressed the claims Dan Quayle made concerning his r This book deepened my already substantial respect for General Colin Powell. I did set the book down a couple of times in the beginning (it is very heavy). As he started writing about events I lived through, I gained new perspectives and became totally immersed in this reader-friendly memoir. I found I finished the last 2/3 of the book in a reading marathon. This book has a lot of gentle humor woven in and out. Couldn't help grinning how Colin addressed the claims Dan Quayle made concerning his role in the decisions about the coup in the Phillipinnes.... Powell tactfully writes: "Some of us remember the incident a little differently." p.441 I always wondered about his family and I loved how they are woven throughout the stories, yet their privacy/dignity is respected and maintained. I'd definitely go out of my way to meet him. And after reading his story, it reminded me why I am proud to be an American as well as a Vietnam-era vet.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    I read often a half dozen books at a time and in this cycle from that group includes three biographies. This one was finished first simply because it was the most captivating. The story of course covers the personal story of Colin Powell, but covers not only his rise in the military, but his rise as a political figure and trusted confident. His oersonal and family values are clear, his honesty is unquestioned and his story of his rise from the neighborhoods of New York City in an era when a man I read often a half dozen books at a time and in this cycle from that group includes three biographies. This one was finished first simply because it was the most captivating. The story of course covers the personal story of Colin Powell, but covers not only his rise in the military, but his rise as a political figure and trusted confident. His oersonal and family values are clear, his honesty is unquestioned and his story of his rise from the neighborhoods of New York City in an era when a man of color was shackled with much to overcome. He is proud of his heritage and never once does anything but move forward. An inspirational story, but more importantly, just a memoir of a successful man with high values both politically and morally.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I read this book shortly after it was published and thought it was a good read. My wife read the Indonesian language version of this book about two years ago and loved it. Last year I was the control officer for Mr. Powell and his wife during a visit to Post. My version of the book is in storage so I asked him to sign a copy of the Indonesian version. He commented on the fact that this was the first Indonesian version he'd seen, checked the copyright and realized that it was a bootleg copy. We c I read this book shortly after it was published and thought it was a good read. My wife read the Indonesian language version of this book about two years ago and loved it. Last year I was the control officer for Mr. Powell and his wife during a visit to Post. My version of the book is in storage so I asked him to sign a copy of the Indonesian version. He commented on the fact that this was the first Indonesian version he'd seen, checked the copyright and realized that it was a bootleg copy. We chuckled over it a bit and he willingly signed it anyway. I was only slightly embarrassed, but not surprised because Indonesia is not known as a strong defender of Intellectual Property Rights laws.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Harry Patrick

    I was impressed with this book. From his family & college years you see where he developed his sense of love for family & loyalty to someone other than self. I would say that Colin Powell is definitely a Type A personality based on his drive to improve himself. What makes him not a total Type A is that he seems to have a healthy ego in that he never came across as overbearing. I found it fascinating his years working in government posts "outside" the military. He gave you a good insight I was impressed with this book. From his family & college years you see where he developed his sense of love for family & loyalty to someone other than self. I would say that Colin Powell is definitely a Type A personality based on his drive to improve himself. What makes him not a total Type A is that he seems to have a healthy ego in that he never came across as overbearing. I found it fascinating his years working in government posts "outside" the military. He gave you a good insight into the historical events & the people involved. I especially liked two of his rules: "It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning" & "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier". Both are so true.

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