Congratulations

Last week, I was listening to a podcast on US General Colin Powell who recently died from a COVID related illness. He was he was born in Harlem, the son of a Jamaican immigrant. He was an undistinguished high school student, joined the army, endured racism in the ranks and was deployed to Vietnam and the first Gulf War. There he was highly decorated and ascended to the rank of General in the US military. Powell was appointed as the National Security Advisor, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State in George Bush’s administration.

Powell’s story, as an African American, rising to the height of US public life is one of great achievement. He was known for treating all who crossed his path with dignity and respect. Upon retirement, he spoke at events around the world on his vision for leadership and service – he understood the connection. His great fear, however, was that he would be remembered for just one moment.

Colin Powell swayed public opinion for going to war, giving evidence to the United Nations on Iraq’s weapons program. His stature, respect and popularity overcame the scepticism of the international community which, in turn, gave support to the US and their allies (including Australia) to invade Iraq. Powell’s information was wrong, no weapons were found, nor was Iraq an ally with Al-Qaeda as asserted in his UN presentation.

The podcast suggests Powell was always sceptical about the existence of such weapons but choose to speak otherwise. He, like many, allowed those who strongly supported war to influence his decision-making. It was a burden Powell carried for the rest of his life.



Library shelves today groan with books pronouncing the essential characteristics of leadership and Powell had most of them. Instead of rehashing well-worn lists of what leaders do, a Christian approach centres on ‘who’ leaders are. A leader’s most compelling tool is who she or he is: a person who understands what they value, who is anchored by certain principles, and communicates these by the example of their daily life. It is a never-ending work in progress that draws on a continually maturing self-understanding. Powell was self-aware, he had doubts about the evidence, yet went against his core principles. The story and many accomplishments of General Powell are qualified with a single, substantial error in leadership.

It is my pleasure to announce the new student leadership for 2022. These young men have participated in an extensive application process and, have received strong support from both peers and staff. If successful as a leader, at school or in later years, they must have an unambiguous understanding of self and be anchored in core principles to guide them on their journey. The College community congratulates the following students on their leadership appointments and we look forward to witnessing their service to the Marist community.