Statement on General Colin Powell
Thom Jackson, EdisonLearning President & CEO
General Colin Powell, a decorated soldier of the Vietnam War, the youngest and first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and America’s first African-American Secretary of State passed away due to complications from COVID-19. General Powell was also battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body's immune response.
His role as a “soldier – statesman” has, and will continue to prompt analysis and debate among historians and political pundits. But that is not my focus. Instead, I want to highlight what may be his most lasting legacy – his leadership of a nationwide movement to improve the lives and futures of America’s youth.
Born in New York’s Harlem neighborhood to parents who had emigrated from Jamaica, Colin Powell was not educated at elite private schools or military academies. He was the product of public schools. After graduating from Morris High School, he attended the City College of New York. His grades were mediocre, but he excelled in the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which led him to a career in the military.
As a lifelong and passionate advocate for education, following the conclusion of his public career, General Powell, and his wife Alma, founded the America’s Promise Alliance, rooted in the belief that every young person deserves to succeed and every adult is responsible for making that happen. EdisonLearning was a founding sponsor of the Alliance.
At the time, General Powell stated his personal goal, and the Alliance’s mission:
“A quality education and strong supports from families and communities are essential to give every child a chance to climb the ladders of opportunity. Ability and effort, not the circumstances of birth, should determine whether and how young people in America realize their dreams.
America’s Promise Alliance has long recognized that while educational excellence is essential, schools alone cannot meet the many needs of children. What happens before young people reach the schoolhouse door – and in the hours after school, on weekends and over the summer – is as important as what happens in the classroom.”
For over a decade, the America’s Promise GradNation campaign has focused the nation on improving high school graduation rates for all students, and EdisonLearning has been a supporter and partner in these efforts. Additionally, America’s Promise was instrumental in helping us to promote our Bridgescape Academies, as we developed a successful academic program for young people who more than likely would not graduate from high school without Bridgescape.
General Powell’s beliefs mirrored those of EdisonLearning that all sectors of society must work together on the many challenges that children face – especially the inequities of poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, trauma, violence, bullying and stress of all kinds – that interfere with their ability to develop the academic, social, and emotional skills they will need to succeed in life.
Apart from his accomplished career in the public sector, General Powell was a true advocate for America’s young people – and his leadership in this challenge will be missed.