General Colin L. Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, toured kindergarten classes, spoke with student representatives at a roundtable session, saluted JROTC cadets, then addressed an audience of 1,000 students and more than 2,000 guests at the recent dedication of Colin L. Powell Academy for Success in the Long Beach Unified School District.
"I'm a soldier, and in my 35 years in the Army they gave me lots of medals," Powell said. "But no honor is more important to me, no honor is more meaningful, no honor will I treasure more than to know there is a Colin L. Powell Academy named after me in Long Beach, California."
The newest school in the Long Beach Unified School District is the first two-story, all-modular K-8 school in the U.S. Center-stage in the school's attractive outdoor amphitheater, Gen. Powell urged students to do their best to adhere to his values of honor, respect, pride, courage, character, integrity and leadership.
"Do your very best to be honorable, to do the right things in life," he said. "Stay away from bad things in life."
"Respect others and yourself," he urged. "Have pride in this community, your school and in yourself. Have the moral courage to resist temptations. Stay away from the things that are wrong in life. Have the physical courage to extend yourself, reaching higher.
"Integrity means you can be counted on. Your word is your bond. Be a leader in your community by watching out for others and respecting others in your community. When called upon to do something, do it in keeping with honor, respect, pride, courage and integrity."
At the roundtable, he was asked by student Jennifer Alcala if he wore uniforms when he was in school.
"We didn't have uniforms when I went through the public school system, but we didn't wear a lot of crazy stuff, either," he said. "The reason for uniforms in the military is that everybody understands that not one person is more important than the other. They are all part of a team, and so they use uniforms to bind everybody together for a common purpose."
He encouraged all 1,000 students to do their best.
"I hope you youngsters understand the significance of this day," he said. "The adults in your life, the people behind me, the people who pay taxes, the teachers who come here every single day, your parents, and political leaders here today believe in you. They have given you an important gift. It wasn't an easy gift to make possible. It took hard work and a lot of people willing to give up their taxes because they are investing in you.
"Remember what they expect of you. They expect each of you to soar like eagles, to do your very best and to do better than them, to keep the dream alive, to keep America moving forward. Respect yourself. Stay away from the bad things in life that will pull you in the wrong direction: crime and drugs and violence.
"Each and every one is a treasure to us. Each and every one of you is an American. Each and every one of you can go as far as you want to go as long as you believe in yourself and as long as you understand that we believe in you.
"That's what the Colin L. Powell Academy for Success is all about--allowing each and every one of you to be a success, limited only by your own dreams and your willingness to work hard."
He stressed his personal interest in their success and promised to return.
"I'm going to be watching you," he said. "I'm going to be looking out for you. Every time I come back to Long Beach, you can find me right here at the school. I'll be out on the playground. I'll be in your classes. I'll be checking on you. I'll be checking on your reading scores. I'll be checking on the California Cadet Corps. I'll be expecting you to do your very best. Don't disappoint me because we believe in you to the depths of our hearts."
Several Powell students presented gifts to the general during the ceremony.
"Our children need heroes," said Carl Cohn, superintendent of schools. "Colin Powell is a true American hero. As a powerful, positive adult role model, he shows students how they can make something wonderful of their lives. By learning all they can, adhering to great principles and setting high standards and ambitious personal goals, as he did, they can achieve far greater things than they ever imagined. When they do, they, in turn, can become someone else's hero."
Also participating in the dedication were Board of Education President Mary Stanton and Mayor Beverly O'Neill.