Full Text: Gen. Colin Powell's 1996 Speech
P H I L A D E L P H I A, July 31 -- Below is the full text of former Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell’s speech to the Republican National Convention four years ago, on Monday, Aug. 12, 1996, in San Diego, Calif. At one point, Powell was booed by the crowd during this speech.
My fellow Americans, my fellow Republicans: I am honored to be with you this evening. I am especially honored to be here with the distinguished Americans that you have just heard from. With President Gerald Ford, a man who at a time of national despair brought dignity and respect back to the presidency. And with President George Bush, who took us through the end of the Cold War and the defeat of communism. George Bush the statesman, George Bush the statesman and my boss who led us to a great victory in the Persian Gulf War. With Mrs. Nancy Reagan, who has so movingly represented President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan, I know, is in our prayers. Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, who gave voice and image to the power of democracy as the way to a better future for all the people of the world. He will be remembered for many things, but, for me, the soldier, the soldiers like Scott O’Grady who we heard moments ago, President Reagan will always be the president who restored the fighting strength and spirit of America’s Armed Forces. I come before you this evening as a retired soldier, a fellow citizen who has lived the American dream to the fullest. As someone who believes in that dream and wants that dream to become reality for every American. My parents came to this country as immigrants over 70 years ago. They came here, as had millions of others, with nothing but hope, a willingness to work hard and a desire to use the opportunities given them by their new land. A land which they came to love with all their hearts. They found work that enabled them to raise a family. Work that allowed them to come home every Friday night with the fruits of their labor, a decent wage that brought sustenance and, more importantly, brought dignity into our home. They raised two children to whom they gave a precious gift — a set of core beliefs. A value system founded on a clear understanding of the difference between right and wrong and a belief in the Almighty. Integrity, kindness and Godliness, they taught us, were right. Lying, violence, intolerance, crime,and drugs were wrong and, even worse than wrong, in my family, they were shameful. We were taught that hard work and education were the keys to success in this country. My sister and I were taught to believe in ourselves. We might be considered poor, but we were rich in spirit. We might be black and treated as second-class citizens. But, stick with it, because in America, justice will eventually triumph and the powerful, searing promise of the founding fathers will come true. We were taught by my parents to always, always, always believe in America. My parents found here a compassionate land and a compassionate people. They found a government that protected their labor, educated their children, and provided help to those of their fellow citizens who were in need. They found their dream in America and they passed that dream on to their children. Here, tonight, over seven decades after they landed on these shores, their son has been given the privilege of addressing the Republican Party, assembled in convention to present to the American people our vision of how that dream can be passed on to future generations.