The Quick 10: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Colin Powell

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Mangesh very astutely pointed out the other day that Colin Powell is a guy you hear about a lot politically, but it seems like most of us don't know much about him personally. Turns out he's pretty fascinating, and he has a great sense of humor. If you've got a little time to kill, check out this interview with Larry King. It takes a while to get to the funny stuff, but near the bottom he swears that he TiVos Larry King every night and calls Larry a Luddite (Larry: "What's a Luddite?") in the same breath. He also talks about how he made Pottery Barn angry.

powell1. In the late "˜50s, Powell was posted in Gelnhausen, Germany. They now have a street named after him: "General-Colin-Powell-Straße".

2. If you have ever noticed a red wagon pin on his lapel, it's not just a whimsical style choice "“ it's the logo of his organization, America's Promise. It's a charitable organization with the goal of helping children in the U.S. succeed in various fields.

3. When Powell was in Vietnam, he fell victim to a punji stick booby trap. He was leading his unit when his right leg fell into a shallow hole; his foot was pierced by the stick. The simple trap is a stick whittled razor-sharp, then smeared with animal feces (the intent was to cause infection and fever). The stick was so sharp it went right through his boot and into the bottom of his foot, which had swelled up by the time he got back to camp. It was infected, but he was treated and the wound healed effectively.

4. He served in Germany at the same time as Elvis and met him twice.

He said, "When I met him, he was out in the field just as dirty and tired as the rest of us from doing his job. We were in this wooded area north of Frankfurt and I was driving along in my Jeep and somebody noted that, there he was. When I got out of my Jeep and walked over to him he saluted and what very proper and what struck me was that he looked just like another GI. He was shorter than I expected."

5. As a member of the ROTC, Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, a fraternity and drill team famous for their precision routines. Even after he achieved great success in the military, he kept a pen set that he had won in a competition on his desk.

6. Speaking of the ROTC, very few generals have come from there (as opposed to a military academy). Powell was also the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ever come out of the ROTC.

7. When he was in his teens, Powell got a job at a baby furniture store. They had just gotten in a bunch of cribs and grabbed the first kid on the street to see if he would help out for a little extra cash. It was Colin Powell, and he did such a great job that they hired him for 75 cents an hour. While there, he picked up some Yiddish used by the shopowners and drops it into his speeches from time to time.

8. His parents were immigrants from Jamaica "“ they settled in Harlem in 1937 and later moved to the South Bronx.

9. He loves TiVo.

10. His bachelor's degree from City College of New York was in geology. And he wasn't a great student "“ he gave a commencement address at Marymount University in 2006 and admitted that he had a "C" average.

October 29, 2008 - 10:24am
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