Note to associations: Give General Powell a break

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

The first time I heard Gen. Colin Powell speak at a trade show was in the mid-1990s. Operation Desert Storm had just concluded, and he gave one of the most spellbinding presentations I'd ever witnessed. All without a single note.

I was so moved I purchased the book on leadership he was selling at the time. The man was and is an inspiration to us all. That said, and while it gives me no pleasure to say this, it's probably time for the various senior living organizations to stop hiring him.

The most recent example of why came earlier this month in Tampa, when he appeared at the Assisted Living Federation of America's annual meeting. To be fair, he made pointed comments about the need for greater race relations, shared some important life lessons and delivered sound advice about leading others.

There's no denying he's a brilliant man. You don't get to be secretary of state or chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on good looks alone. And it's easy to forget that there was a time not too long ago when he would have been a shoe-in for president, had he decided to run. But having seen him at least three times in recent years, I must say the act is getting old.

The repeated references to missing his airplane, the joys of speeding in a Corvette, or losing various perks were once funny. Now they're throwaway lines for easy laughs.

Not that I blame Powell for taking the money. The fact is that many of these speaking gigs pay better than the annual salaries he once made as an Army officer. But it really is time to call it a career.

If not, he should at least stop serving up the same-old pablum. It's not like there aren't plenty of juicy things he could address. Maybe he could express how betrayed he felt after learning he'd been given bogus “evidence” to present before the United Nations. You know, the speech where he testified before the world that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?

Or perhaps he could address what it was really like to be a black man in places where black men were generally not welcome?

Or he could even share how he really feels about old colleagues like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

Now those are insights that would be worth listening to. And with all due respect, they'd be a lot more interesting.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.