Powell: Few Regrets As He Rolls On

Even out of office, Colin Powell remains highly influential.

Comments on the issues of the day by the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff still make headlines, as evidenced by his recent remarks about the Iraq war plan.

The story appeared in AARP The Magazine.

At 69, Powell has already retired twice but, as we learned Tuesday in The Early Show series "Young at Heart," which is done in conjunction with the AARP, his career is far from finished.

Powell just got the AARP's Andrus Award, given every two years to those who have made significant contributions to society.

Not bad,

The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, for a kid from the South Bronx who spent most of his life in the Army.

Colin Luther Powell was born in 1937. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, were immigrants from Jamaica. They believed in the promise of America — and made sure that their son believed in it, too.

"You've filled your basket of accomplishment here," Smith said to Powell. "What do you know for sure?"

"I know for sure, and it fuels me and drives me," Powell replied, "that we live in a unique country and a unique society that gave my parents an opportunity 80 years ago. They came here with nothing but dreams and hopes, and they met here and married here and their children were very successful in society."

The word "successful," says Smith, doesn't even begin to describe Powell's life. After public school and a degree in geology from City College of New York, Powell was commissioned as a second lieutenant and started up the chain.

Like many others of his generation, he served in Vietnam, where he was awarded a Purple Heart. After stops that included a White House fellowship and a command in Korea, Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the nation's top man in uniform.

If his Army career was a study in achievement, the first Gulf War was his masterpiece. Some credit his doctrine of decisiveness for the rapid victory.

It was only on the eve of the second Iraq war that Powell's star began to tarnish. As secretary of state in February 2003, he gave a speech at the United Nations outlining the main reason for war with Iraq: weapons of mass destruction that, it later turned out, were never found.

It is a moment he describes as a blot on his career.