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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

on 16 July 1999
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.
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on 4 June 1999
This book is wonderfully written. You can hear Powell speaking as you read his words. I've hardly been able to put the book down.
I have enjoyed reading about the different points in his life and how perseverence and fate has shaped his career.
I also recommend this book for high schoolers of today. The book is loaded with lots of lessons and points in leadership. I think a lot of managers and adult leaders could learn quite a bit from these lessons in life.
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on 27 December 2002
This books combines the various threads that make up the present US Secretary of State Colin Powell. It starts with a charming family history of the Jamaican Powell’s and their US Journey, and young Colin growing up in New York. He paints a nostalgic view of his College ROTC years, lamenting it’s decline in latter times. Of interest to many would be his description of his army posting in a pre-segregation South. Reading between the lines, his army career seem to consist of not upsetting his superiors and rocking the boat. This was of assistance to him during the Gulf War I, in maintaining a very diverse coliation. It’s also fascinating to see how Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfield are mentioned in this book. I am looking forward to his follow on book detailing the Bush years.
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on 14 November 1996
This book deserves praise on so many different levels. Powell
has told a wonderful story about his life, but that's what an
autobiography is supposed to do. He has given us many of his
opinions and insights into the Washington political and military
culture, but that's what everyone expected him to do. He has
also provided us with a readable and thoroughly enjoyable
modern social history. This is what makes the book a "must read."
This book is not a dry historical text. It is nostalgic or new,
culturally, politically and militarily, depending on the reader's experiences.
For example, Powell's story of driving through the South, alone,
during the height of America's racial and civil unrest will undoubtedly
cause some readers to stop and think about related events in their
own lives. However, for younger readers the passage may be more of
an educational awakening. Either way, all readers will be touched.
The reason this book succeeds is because Powell does not only
what is necessary or expected, but what is interesting as well.
And he does it in a down-to-earth, conversational way.
This book is for anyone of any age, political party, race or occupation.
This book is for anyone who wants to learn not only about Colin
Powell and his "American Journey," but also about OUR American journey.
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on 5 May 1998
Its surprising to learn some tactical points from Gen. Powell who is often refered as being political: having his ARVN troops wear flak jackets on point in Vietnam, his attention to detail while jumping with U.S. Army PATHFINDER School come to mind. His principles in the back of the book are good to post on everyone's wall and bulletin board. But readers need to be very careful about pitching Gen Powell's story as proof positive that being good will garner you success. His encounter with the bigoted CO at Fort Carson almost ruined his career had it not been for "mentors" looking over him and protecting him. There are a lot of "Colin Powells" in the military or have been in the military who when they meet this career threatening jerk-of-a-co; find noone to save them, and we lose their brilliance. We do a great dis-service to our young people when we push blind naivete' and ambition as the answers to life without telling them of the jealousies and back-stabbings that are sure to follow. Gen Powell clearly understands this because he always tries to remind everyone that the "U.S." in "U.S. Army" means US--all of us, that one person's success means everyone's success. I like Gen Powell's egalitareanism shown in the book, and I hope people who read it be like him. I wish the U.S. Army would create a required reading list for its Soldiers, place this book on that list and give their people correspondance course credit after answering questions on the book (should be some essay questions to make them think) to jump-start the professional revival we need starting from the bottom up, by all ranks not just high-brow officers.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 July 2011
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 26 December 2014
This is a substantial and well written book that tells General Powell's story until his retirement from the Army. He has, of course, been central to many events of the Reagan and Bush presidencies and even early in Clinton's too. He explains and justifies his role and his mastery of Washington intrigue is clear despite his disdain for politics.

There can be no doubt that he is a remarkable man - he comes over as warm and personable as he explains his passion for developing other people. His is generous with his praise of others and sparing with his criticisms. He does provide some valubale insights into his leadership style and values.

There must be a nagging doubt about whether this is a book that has been written and presented for a market. His co-author has been influential no doubt, and perhaps provides a polish that takes off the edge of the real Colin Powell. In one telling passage, he talks about being short-tempered and impatient with others, but there is virtually no examples given in the text of this. So, while this is almost certainly a genuine account of his values, I do wonder if this is selective when it comes to his behaviours. Is this a book that presents Colin Powell in the way that he would like to come across? As this is his autobiography, he is, of course, entitled to do that.

The accounts of negotiations with the soviets over arms control, the first gulf war and many others are fascinating. Perhaps space has caused these accounts to be truncated though. There are many times when one is left thinking that there must be more to it than has been presented.

Nevertheless, this si a good book, well written and that moves at a decent pace. I enjoyed it.
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on 29 November 1997
As a US Air Force Officer, I am proud to recommend this book to all. Gen Powell's experiences have re-energized my ideals. His insights into leadership and service to country are magnificant! His story is a testament to hard work and a willingness to take responsibility for ones own actions. He proves to us all that we can make mistakes, learn from them, and lead others down the right path. A true, must read biography for all Americans.
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on 3 November 1996
Colin Powell's autobiography is a testament to the fact that
the "American Dream" is possible to anyone willing to work
hard and deal with life head-on. While co-written with
Joseph E. Persico, the book has the feel of General Powell
just telling his story directly to the reader, without
embellishment. A must-read for people sick of the
pre-packaged bios produced for so many celebrities.
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on 25 June 1997
Six hundred seventeen pages about a contemporary general? This is one of the few modern biographies I have read and I was amazed at how enjoyable it was. Powell's life is a traditional rags-to-riches story, the American Dream come true. His writing is clear, suscinct, and entertaining, giving you a feeling for the man behind the uniform. He offers an interesting perspective on America's leaders and provides an insider's view on how decisions are really made in our government. His career provides a parallel for the re-making of the American Armed Forces. He offers us Powell's rules, and
peppered with cameo appearances by contemporary celebrities, he unravels the story of a how a boy from the Bronx can rise to hold the highest position in the Armed Forces today. At the outset of his book, he dabbles with the topic of racism, but by the end he is revved into high gear delivering a clear message: every single American should be proud of his heritage, but he should be proud to be American, too. This is an uplifting book, with a message that needs to be heard by all Americans.
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