Republican National Convention
Monday, July 31, 2000

Powell's speech to focus on service

Retired general speaks in prime time tonight

By Nick Anderson
Los Angeles Times

        PHILADELPHIA — Four years ago, Colin L. Powell stood before the Republican National Convention in San Diego as a towering figure — retired four-star general, best-selling memoirist and trailblazing black who had spurned efforts to draft him for a presidential run.

        Tonight, Mr. Powell will address another GOP convention in an equally choice slot: 20 minutes on opening night before a national television audience.

        But with speculation high that Mr. Powell, 63, would serve in the Cabinet if George W. Bush wins the White House — perhaps as secretary of state — he no longer appears the above-the-fray figure he did before the last election, when he seemingly levitated above both major parties.

        What's more, Mr. Powell's recent accomplishments as head of a group that seeks to help disadvantaged youth are less easily defined than the smashing victory over Iraqi troops in 1991 that made him a household name.

        No one would call Mr. Powell just another pol. His life story will always set him apart: the son of Jamaican immigrants, he spent his boyhood in the South Bronx and then rose to become a key national-security counselor to three presidents and the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

        But Mr. Powell clearly has deepened his ties with the Republican Party while building a new two-track career as both a highly paid speaker and unpaid chairman of America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth.

        “The relationship has grown, let me just leave it at that,” Powell spokesman Bill Smullen said.

        Mr. Powell's refusal to seek elective office has helped preserve his stature, ensuring that he remains in sulated from the critical scrutiny of the campaign trail.

        Mr. Powell, who declined interview requests before the convention, told Fox television in June that the GOP “is certainly not seen as the black guy's party.”

        He added: “I think too often the Republican Party has said, "We know what's best for you,' as opposed to listening to the African-American community, understanding some of the despair that exists in the African-American inner-city communities.”

        In 1996, Mr. Powell seized his prime-time opening to plead with his party to make room for opposing views on divisive issues such as abortion and affirmative action.

        Mr. Powell, in his 1995 book My American Journey, described himself as “a fiscal conservative with a social conscience.” But Mr. Powell parts with the candidate on some issues. For instance, Mr. Powell supports abortion rights, while the Texas governor does not.


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