My American Journey Essay - Critical Essays

My American Journey

Since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., no African American has achieved greater fame and admiration among wide segments of the American public than Colin Powell. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell pursued a military career after graduating from New York University, rising to become one of America’s most distinguished and influential leaders. In MY AMERICAN JOURNEY, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one-time National Security Adviser to President Ronald Reagan offers an honest assessment of a career that made him a key figure in some of the country’s most controversial events of the 1980’s and 1990’s: the Iran-Contra affair, the invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. rescue mission in Somalia.

Powell’s story reads like a Horatio Alger novel. He is quick to acknowledge the powerful positive influence of his parents, his military comrades and superiors, and especially his military mentors in shaping his values. He describes with equal frankness the successes he has achieved and the mistakes he has made, outlining the lessons he has taken away from situations of triumph and adversity. He speaks highly of Frank Carlucci and Caspar Weinberger, under whom he served at both the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department. He is also quick to praise Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the latter who became a personal friend.

Though not a political manifesto, MY AMERICAN JOURNEY makes clear Powell’s personal values and his belief in the role of government in handling social injustice. Although he is proud of his heritage, Powell insists that he be judged as an American first, not a member of a racial subgroup. While this may not sit well with some, Powell makes no apologies; instead, he presents the facts to his readers, and leaves it to their good sense and intuition to see the value in his life of service to his country.

Sources for Further Study

The Christian Science Monitor. November 7, 1995, p. 12.

Ebony. LI, November, 1995, p. 100.

Foreign Affairs. LXXIV, November, 1995, p. 102.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 24, 1995, p. 1.

National Review. XLVII, November 6, 1995, p. 56.

The New Republic. CCXIII, November 6, 1995, p. 32.

The New York Review of Books. XLII, November 2, 1995, p. 4.

The New York Times Book Review. C, September 17, 1995, p. 16.

Time. CXLVI, September 18, 1995, p. 60.

The Wall Street Journal. September 19, 1995, p. A20.

The Washington Post Book World. XXV, September 17, 1995, p. 1.