Powell: MLK "freed all of America"

On the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I have a dream" speech, former Secretary of State Colin Powell reflected on the civil rights leader's legacy - and lauded the man whom he said "freed all of America."

"He meant a great deal to me," Powell said of King, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Powell was instrumental in facilitating the construction of a new memorial honoring King, and thousands of people from across the country had planned to visit Washington, for its Sunday dedication. The event, however, was put on hold as Hurricane Irene tour up the East Coast.

Nevertheless, Powell spoke with CBS' Bob Schieffer about his personal thoughts on King's place in history - and what he might think of politics today.

"You know, when he gave that famous speech I was serving in Vietnam. When he was killed several years later, I was training to go back to Vietnam. Most of that period I was away from the country, my wife and young children were in Birmingham Alabama during those terrible days in 1963," Powell remembered. "What Dr. King meant to me was that the second revolution, the second civil war was underway. It was time now to meet the dream set out for us by our founding fathers. And what Dr. King did was not just free African Americans - he freed all of America. He caused us, through his sacrifice and his service, he caused America to look at a mirror of itself."

"He was the leader who took us through that change and that's why it's so fitting that he be memorialized in this manner," Powell added.

But the former Bush administration official said King's dream was still a long way off from realization - and that if King were alive today, he would be "raging."

"If Dr. King was here now he would be raging about poverty," Powell said. "He would be raging about inequalities in our society. He would be raging about the fact that we are not educating all of our youngsters, especially all of our African American youngsters."

He said, too, that he thought King would be "disappointed" in the state of contemporary politics.

"We have such a lack of civility in our political life now. We are fixed on ideological polls and we seem unable to come together," Powell said.

He continued: "What Dr. King was always saying was, 'Can't we come together? Can't we talk about these issues?' Our Founding Fathers argued with each other, but they also knew that argument was part of the Democratic process. But ultimately you have to compromise with each other in order to reach a consensus just to keep the country moving forward. If all we do is remain fixed on these polar opposites of our political spectrum, the country will not be moving forward."

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