Our Youth

Gen. Colin Powell Visits B’klyn’s Cristo Rey H.S.

Cristo Rey students present General Powell with school memorabilia.

General Colin Powell visited the students at Cristo Rey Brooklyn H.S. to encourage them to be their own role models.

“You are going to be the leaders of this country,” said the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former U.S. Secretary of State. “I am counting on you, now that I am becoming an old man.”

General Powell recounted the story of his childhood, which resembled the circumstances of many of the students who attend the Bushwick high school geared toward financially struggling families.

“My parents came from Jamaica on a banana boat,” he told the students. Because his family sacrificed so much to start a family, they expected their children to embrace the opportunities the U.S. afforded them. However, that was not an easy task.

“I was not the smartest of my cousins,” the general said. “I was the guy who was considered to be kind of slow.”

Young Powell struggled through most of his educational career. However, quitting was not an option in his family.

“If I ever thought of coming home and saying I wanted to drop out of high school, they would say they would drop me,” he said, half joking.

Powell scraped through high school and finally made his way to City University of New York (CUNY). He entered the ROTC, where he found his footing. It was his good ROTC grades that brought his grade point average up to 2.0.

Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano, Robert Catell and General Powell stand as Analia Acavedo, junior, sings the national anthem.

Powell said that when CUNY administration helped make sure he was able to go on to the military, they probably never thought they would hear of him again. Now, the university has a Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies.

“When I left, they weren’t going to name anything after me,” he said.

After college, Powell had a stellar career in the military, eventually occupying one of the nation’s most powerful offices.

“I worked like a dog because I believed in myself; I believed in the country we are all citizens of, and I believed in my family responsibility,” he said.

The general encouraged the students to have faith in themselves no matter how hard the path ahead may seem and to “suck in all the education and knowledge you can.” He advised the students to never blame other people or outside circumstances for their failure but to learn what they can do to better themselves.

“The only limitation you have is the one you put on yourself,” he said. He encourages the students to give their all to whatever path they choose.

When one of the students asked the general what he would have done if he had not joined the army, he answered that he might have been a bus driver, pointing out that a bus driver is a noble profession if executed to the best of one’s ability.

Christine Roman, principal, said she was pleased by the respect and enthusiasm with which the students received General Powell. She said the school halls and Facebook were still abuzz with reactions from the visit a week later.

“I thought he was going to come in with a straight face, but he smiled and had a sense of humor,” said junior Karisneyca Gutierrez. “He is proud of himself but he is down to earth… He’s an inspiration to keep working hard and keep moving forward for a better future.”

Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano and Robert Catell, director of the board of Cristo Rey Brooklyn, also greeted General Powell during his visit.

“General Powell’s visit demonstrates that we are a positive entity here in Brooklyn,” Catell said.

The general tells students that a mastery of English is important in all areas of life.
General Powell makes sure Darrel Suarez-White, freshman, is at proper attention stance before answering his question.