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Thumbnail of Colin L. Powell (source)
Colin L. Powell
(5 Apr 1937 - 18 Oct 2021)

American army officer a retired four-star general in the U.S. Army, born of Jamaican immigrants who impressed the value of education and accomplishment. He served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President George H.W. Bush, and Secretary of State for President G. W. Bush.

Humane Leadership

One Minute Read

by Colin Powell
Excerpt from My American Journey

One day Captain Miller summoned me. He was assigning my platoon to a secret mission. … I eagerly alerted my men. I loaded my .45 caliber pistol, jumped into my jeep, and headed for battalion headquarters to be briefed. I was excited; I was going to guard a weapon that fired a nuclear warhead!

I had not gone far when I reached down for the reassuring feel of the .45. It was gone. I was petrified. In the Army, losing a weapon is serious business. I was torn between taking time to look for the pistol and getting on with the mission. Finally, I realized that I had to radio Captain Miller and tell him what had happened.

“Powell, are you on your way yet?” he asked right off the bat.

“Yes, sir. But, you see … I lost my pistol.”

“You what?” he said in disbelief, then, after a few seconds, added, “All right, continue the mission.”

After being briefed at battalion headquarters, I returned to pick up my unit, uneasily contemplating my fate. I had just passed through a little German village when I spotted Captain Miller waiting for me in his jeep at the wood line. He called me over. “I’ve got something for you,” he said. He handed me the pistol. “Some kids in the village found it where it fell out of your holster.” Kids found it? I felt a cold chill. “Yeah,” he said. “Luckily they only got off one round before we heard the shot and came and took the gun away from them.” The disastrous possibilities left me limp. “For God’s sake, son,” Miller said, “don’t let that happen again.”

He drove off. I checked the magazine; it was full. The gun had not been fired. I learned later that I had dropped it in my tent before I ever got started. Miller had fabricated the whole scene about the kids to scare me into being more responsible. He never mentioned the incident again. …

Miller’s example of humane leadership that does not always go by the book was not lost on me. When they fall down, pick ’em up, dust ’em off, pat ’em on the back, and move ’em on.


[Colin Powell gives us a memorable sentence: “When they fall down, pick ’em up, dust ’em off, pat ’em on the back, and move ’em on.” But for us outside the military, he also reminds us that gun ownership is a serious responsibility. “Kids found it,” leaves a lot to think about, without a lapse; ever. —Webmaster]

From Colin L. Powell and Joseph E. Persico, My American Journey (1996), 44-45. (source)

See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)

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