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Colin Powell: The America We Remember Is Back Again

Complete Inaugural Coverage

Colin Powell, the former Bush administration Secretary of State and now head of America's Promise, called Barack Obama's election to the nation's highest office a "reaffirmation of American principles values that will help us overcome some of the difficulties of recent years with respect to the attitude of the world toward us."

Speaking with CBS News Managing Editor Katie Couric, Powell said America's prestige abroad has improved since Mr. Obama won a decisive victory over Senator John McCain.

"I think it has really, really been an remarkable event in terms of getting everybody to stand back and say, look at what we have seen here in America," Powell said. "The America we remember is back again."

Powell, who was the highest ranking African-American in the U.S. chain of command while in office and a retired four-star general, was surprised by Mr. Obama's quick rise to the job of Commander in Chief and the efficiency of his campaign.

"I am surprised," Powell said. "I am deeply pleased it happened in my lifetime. He did sort of come out of nowhere. But he came out of nowhere with a sense of optimism, self-confidence, but not overconfidence, and a belief in the basic ideals of this country. What he did was ran a campaign that was almost a military operation in terms of its efficiency, and it's dogged determination to achieve a goal, and he said to all Americans, let's come together, as he says so often. It is not a red state or a blue state, but we're all in one country. And he touched the American people at a time when the American people wanted to be touched, and they needed to be touched. They needed to be reminded of what this country stands for."

As an African-American who was once touted as a presidential candidate, Powell offered his perspective on the Mr. Obama's historic election.

"We have a man who happens to be an African-American, but beyond that, he is a qualified, capable, transformational figure – that's why we elected him," Powell said. "The fact he is African-American says so much about who we are as a people, as a country. It has energized the country and energized the world. Parades the night of the election, not only in Chicago and New York, but in Rio, in Berlin, in Obama, Japan -- there is such a place. They're building a statue in it for him already. The world wondered, can America really do this? Aren't they too divided? Can they really pull something like this off? And we said to the world, yes, we can, and we did."

Regarding the ongoing wars that President Obama will inherit, Powell offered his view on how to proceed, " terms of Iraq, we can continue the draw-down a pretty steady pace, and the Iraqis get our help, but Afghanistan, a still more difficult task. Still a tribal society, still a very poor country. The government is not functioning as well as we want it to, and you have the drug problem, which I think can destroy any country if it is not brought under control. So additional troops will help, but we need more than just additional troops. We need to do something about the Pakistan side and the government needs to start functioning. It is a political and economic challenge."

It's not unlikely that President Obama will call upon Colin Powell for service in the new era of responsibility.

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