Former Secretary of State Colin Powell made two stops in the Twin Cities Tuesday afternoon, visiting a youth center construction site and giving a speech at the U of M's Humphrey Institute. TV cameras were not allowed inside Northrop Auditorium for the speech, but they were welcome at the south Minneapolis construction site.
Youth Center Tour
Ryan Construction crews were busy Tuesday giving shape to the Colin Powell Leadership Center in South Minneapolis to ensure the building's namesake would have something to see when he stopped by the site. The retired general and former Secretary of State was in the Twin Cities to give a speech at the U of M’s Humphrey Institute, said he’s honored to be connected to the project rising near the corner of 4th Avenue and Lake Street.
“I'm so pleased to be here for the 3rd time, and finally see something coming out of the hole!” Powell told a crowd as he grabbed Art Erickson, the president of Urban Ventures Leadership Foundation which is spearheading the project.
“You are showing the youngsters of south Minneapolis a place where they can come, be safe, be protected,” said Powell.
“We'll have people who will work with them in the fine arts, in sports, in education. The people of Minneapolis are saying, at this site, we care about you, we're gonna help you, we're gonna be there for you and we expect to make something of yourselves.”
The $30 million center is just down the road from the newly revived Sears building, another symbol of the central city’s struggle for recovery.
“That was kind of the symbol of the urban, what we call the donut paradigm, the resources on the outside and the city in the middle or the hole is in the middle,” Art Erickson told KARE-TV Tuesday.
He says the faith-based nondenominational foundation has a three-pronged mission.
“Youth leadership development, strengthening families and bringing jobs back in. Youth leadership development because we’ve lost three generations of kids in the neighborhood here to crack cocaine, gang violence, fatherlessness, purposelessness. And lack of skills.”
Urban Ventures also sponsors a center for fathering skills, says the foundation’s Kerry Givens.
“Seventy percent of the kids we work with have absent dads. The dads aren't in the home. And so we're working with men about being a dad.”
The campus will also feature the Cristo Rey high school, a 500-student Jesuit Catholic school which will come to an area that no longer has no longer has a public high school of its own.
“Coming back into the neighborhood is a school with a community support system that will give the kids all the tools they need to succeed HERE,” says Erickson.
“You don’t have to go anywhere else.”
Erickson said the foundation picked Powell in 2000 because they expected his name to hold up well and that it would mean something to children fighting the odds, just as Powell did coming up in the Bronx as a Caribbean immigrant.
“We knew in five or 10 years he would not hurt his own image, that his name wouldn’t be dragged through the mud,” said Givens.
“We talk often about the role models that are out there, and they’re not always athletes. There are other people like Colin Powell, our former mayor of Minneapolis Sharon Sayles Belton.”
Before shaking hands with the construction workers on site Tuesday Powell answered a few questions from members of the midtown community. They asked if he had any answers for the violent crimes that have plagued the core of the city.
Powell was blunt on the subject of criminals but argued the leadership center being built here is part of the long-term solution.
“Let’s not pussyfoot around this. Criminals are criminals and they need to be removed from the communities where people still have hope,” remarked Powell.
“We have to do is make sure we’re not creating a new generation of criminals. And if all these young kids see are criminals in their neighborhoods getting away with this, and they see no alternative, then what are they gonna do? They have to part of a gang, they have to be part of a tribe. I want them to be part of this tribe, this gang and not that gang.”
By John Croman, KARE 11 News.
Humphrey Institute Speech, as reported by the Associated Press
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday he was satisfied that a congressional bill dealing with the treatment of terror suspects honors the Geneva Conventions.
Powell recently criticized a Bush administration plan to redefine the conventions -- which set international standards on prisoner treatment -- saying he feared it could cause the world "to doubt the moral basis" of America's fight against terror.
Those comments supported maverick Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner, whose opposition forced the administration to alter its proposal before a deal was reached. The measure passed by Congress prohibits the worst abuses of detainees, including rape and biological experiments, while allowing other tough tactics determined by the president.
Asked about the bill during a speech at the University of Minnesota, Powell said he's confident it will ensure the humane treatment of detainees. "We can do all the interrogating we want inside the Geneva Conventions," he said.
Powell said he knew his reservations -- revealed in a letter to McCain -- would be controversial, "but I believe it strongly."
Several thousand people filled Northrop Auditorium to hear Powell, who hobbled across the stage with a walking cast on his right leg, saying he tore his Achilles tendon after tripping in his backyard.
Minneapolis resident Mary Eichinger, who attended the speech, said she was glad that Powell reiterated his opposition to any major changes in how the Geneva Conventions are followed.
"You don't change your ethics for short-term gain," she said.
Powell reserved judgment on a provision that bars detainees from going to federal court to protest their detention or treatment -- a right referred to as habeas corpus. He said he trusted McCain and the others who helped craft the bill and believed the courts would ultimately determine its lawfulness.
The bill also allows military commissions to prosecute suspected terrorists.
While the speech was ostensibly about leadership, the public questions afterward focused on terrorism and the war in Iraq.
Powell warned that the war is in a third stage of "sectarian warfare," calling it the most difficult period so far because American troops alone can't solve the situation. He said troops have to stay and fight -- but not forever.
"We are involved in a very difficult war that has become complex," he said.
While his words were measured and far from partisan, some comments alluded to the fierce debate about the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq. At one point, he said, "Stay the course isn't a good enough answer, because to stay the course you have to have a finish line."
However, he also struck a positive note, dismissing claims that Iraq has put America in one of its most precarious positions in history. He said the Nazi and Communist threats of the 20th century were much worse.
"There is more democracy (in the world) today than there has ever been before in history," he said.
Leigh McIlvaine, a university student, said she was glad Powell struck a positive note considering the turmoil surrounding Iraq and the war on terror. "His optimistic approach to the country -- I liked it," she said. "It was refreshing."
By Gregg Aamot, Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2006 by KARE-TV and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)