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Colin Powell On CNN's "Larry King Live"

FDCH Transcripts

April 28, 1997

KING: Good evening. Back on May 1, 1957, I started in radio in Miami, Florida. So this Thursday will be 40 years. We at CNN are going to celebrate it all week long with Colin Powell tonight, Hillary Clinton tomorrow night.

On Wednesday, Bill Cosby will be the special guest. Thursday night, I'll be interviewed by Bryant Gumbel. Friday night, Cal Ripken and then Saturday night a kind of a retrospective of the past 40 years.

Tonight, we are in the City of Brotherly Love. It's beautiful spring night in Philadelphia after a rather ugly day. We're at the historical Bellevue Hotel in downtown Philly. This is now the Park Hyatt. We're in the Founders' Room. When you see the statuary, you'll see Ben Franklin and William Penn and all those guys from back there when they were, we're not.

Now, we are here with General Colin Powell.

POWELL: Good evening, Larry. It's good to be with you and...

KING: A little much?

POWELL: No. This is fabulous. But let me start out the evening by congratulating you and your 40 years of broadcasting service to the nation. And I hope you have another 40.

KING: Me too.

POWELL: I may say, you know, even though it's been 40 years, you look older.

KING: From your lips to God. You have got to understand, for the benefit of the audience at home. This is the Bronx. He is the Bronx. I'm Brooklyn. So there's a natural hostility that could build through the entire program.

Is this a success, this summit?

POWELL: So far, the summit itself is a success. But I think more importantly as the beginning of a campaign, it's also a success. The delegations that are here from around the country have been spending this afternoon, will spend tomorrow, getting their plans together.

We have already heard reports of summits that are going to be held all over the country. People are excited about this. I hope we have turned the country on. It's not so much what happens here in Philadelphia and although we appreciate all the commitments that are being given.

And so far as of today, we have some 1,500 individual commitments. It's what happens out in every community. That's where the real capacity for service that lies.

KING: There will be local -- like a Cleveland Summit, Miami.

POWELL: Cleveland Summit. The Texas delegation that's been working all afternoon, they have already announced the number of city summits in Laredo, Houston. I'll be in St. Louis this coming Saturday with Congressman Dick Gephardt and Senator Chris Bond, the Democrat, the Republican with the mayor. And the citizens of St. Louis will be doing some activity during the day. And I'll join them in the afternoon and participate in their event.

KING: What do you make of the -- some of the negative nabobs -- whatever that was said.

POWELL: Nattering nabobs of negativism.

KING: There are some people saying this is either a plot or it's a socialist or it's a contrived -- if everybody is for it, something is wrong?

POWELL: Well, everybody can take a shot at it. I mean it's a free country. But when the shots have been fired, they're all going to bounce off. Because it's none of those things.

It's a simple coming together of Americans across all political boundaries, all racial boundaries, all gender boundaries, all focusing our attention on a massive problem that this nation has. And that's our young people.

Not all of our young people, but those of our young people who are trapped in circumstances that are very, very destructive, who do not have a caring adult in their lives and all the other things we have talked about over the last few days.

KING: Is the concept that they're all our children?

POWELL: They are all of our children. It's not a concept. It's a reality. These are our children. If we don't start taking better care of them, then they're going to be a loss to this nation. They're going to be a loss to the next generation. Worse, they're going to be in jail in the next generation.

KING: Quite a few months ago, you told me about this project that you earmarked it for this and picked this date. Did you have any idea it would get this big?

POWELL: No, it's exceeded all of our expectations. It's grown and grown and I'm very, very pleased. It has. But I think it's grown, because it sort of struck some sparks out across heartland. We're getting enormous response to it.

KING: Is this your baby?

POWELL: No. It was the late Governor George Romney of Michigan's baby. He came up with the idea. He looked around the nation and sensed that there was something missing. So it was his idea that we should come together at a summit meeting of some type, with all the presidents, to essentially make it bipartisan, make it across all lines and that we should at that summit recommit ourselves and then go forward with the campaign.

Then last year, it began to take firmer form. And then at the end of the year, in order to focus it so it isn't just a tummy- rubbing, feel-good operation, we decided to focus it on young people and on the five resources we were talking about.

KING: It was Governor...

POWELL: Governor Romney, yes.

KING: Isn't it a service?


KING: They do it as a part of the faith?

POWELL: They do it. Many of the our religions do it as a part of the faith. In fact, unless I am mistaken, it comes from the Bible, suffer chidren ...

KING: Those who say it eventually will be another government program. People get days off to do things. We, as the taxpayers, will be paying them while they are doing other things. So in a sense, it will be a government program.

POWELL: No, I don't see it that way at all. I mean, people all over this country, in the tens of millions, volunteer during the course of the week, during the course of their daily lives, and all we're asking is for many, many more millions of Americans to do likewise and for other parts of America to get more deeply involved, such as corporate America.

We shouldn't see this as it's either the government or private. We're all in this together. The government has a role to play. The American people don't want their government destroyed. They just want it sort of constrained a little bit, in terms of the demand that government places on our taxes.

And the era of big government is over, as our recent political leaders have been telling us. So whatever level of support the government decides to give is a matter for debate between the administration and the legislature at the federal, state, and local levels.

But whatever they decide to do, the need is so great that the private sector has to do a lot more in partnership with government, all of us in partnership, government, nonprofit, profit making organizations...

KING: Individuals.

POWELL: Individuals especially. All of our institutions representing our various religions, they perhaps have to play one of the most important roles in restoring a sense of spirituality and recognition of why we're here on this earth.

KING: All the living presidents are behind it. But some have mentioned that Senator Lott and Speaker Gingrich were not here. Any particular thing we can read into this?

POWELL: No, I would not read anything into it. They were invited. The congressional leadership was invited. Some of them were able to come. Others were not able to come. But I know that they're all fully supportive. I have talked to them. And they're all supportive of this.

KING: So Gingrich is supportive. Lott is supportive?

POWELL: Yes. No doubt about it. Both sides of the aisle. But they had other things to do. And frankly, we weren't looking for more political leaders at this summit, which would tend to start dividing issues along political lines.

KING: You grew up in a tough -- some would say deprived neighborhood in the South Bronx?


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