Honesty: If you lead a clean and honest life, you don't put skeletons in the closet. If you put skeletons in the closet, they definitely will come back just when you don't want to see them and ruin your life.
Colin Powell became the first African-American Secretary of State in U.S. history when he took office in 2001.
Powell was a career soldier who fought in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He rose through the ranks to become a general, then became national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George Bush the elder, directing U.S. forces during the first Gulf War. Powell retired in 1993 and published his autobiography, My American Journey, in 1995.
in 1963 when I came home from Vietnam, having served my nation, having sworn an oath to the Constitution to serve my nation, I came home and was denied access to restaurants and refused service in hotels and motels. If my skin was white, or if I could shine it up a little more than it is and put a hat on my head so my hair wasn't showing, as long as I could prove I wasn't black, then I was free to enjoy these benefits. The fact that I was a soldier of the nation was irrelevant. And this all rested on the Constitution, according to the courts. And according to some 30-odd presidents, and according to some 180 Congresses. This isn't ancient history to me, this is my lifetime, my generation. I choose not to forget that we have this history. No one loves the Declaration or the Constitution more than me, but you have to see it in its correct perspective. And because it was so misused over those years, and it took us 200 years to get into the spirit that was intended by the Founding Fathers, even though they knew they couldn't do it in practice at that time, even though it took us 200 years, we can't ignore the legacy of that history that is still contaminating the present. I think tools such as affirmative action are useful to help us rub out, sand down this inequity that continues to haunt the present, that came from the past. Some say, "We don't wallow around in old history." Why not? We wallow around in the beauty of the Constitution and the Declaration, that's old history. So let's wallow around in all of it, as did the black people for all those years. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to use tools such as affirmative action and other similar tools.
What do you think are the most important documents of this century?
The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the First and Second Inaugural Addresses of Thomas Jefferson are my four favorite documents. The Emancipation Proclamation, and following that, the Gettysburg Address, which was essentially a restatement of the Declaration. But coming into this century and broadening it, I would just give you one that you're going to find surprising, and that was the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which was the Declaration of the Rights of Man. It was as a result of one of these international negotiations. President Ford, in one of the more historic but under-appreciated acts of this century, going against domestic political opposition, signed the Helsinki Final Act, which essentially said there are universal rights of men and women.