Colin Powell for Secretary of Education

President-elect Obama visits a school in Chicago.

Look at this picture.

What do you see? I see some little kids who are really, really excited to see the next President of the United States. Their fresh, smiling faces are full of hope.

I want each of these kids to read great books and newspapers, make informed decisions, vote and be responsible for themselves and each other. I want them to go to college, to get good jobs and to always be as happy as they look here.

Prez-elect Obama demonstrates that being smart can be cool–book smart is cool, too. He shows that these kids can be true to themselves AND do well in school and that getting an education is not selling-out.

The Prez-elect can bring this message all the way home by appointing former Secretary of State and Chair of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell as his Secretary of Education.

  1. It would elevate education to a top-tier department by virtue of General Powell’s star power. You take a high-wattage leader and it shines on the entire department.
  2. Powell has been working on youth issues since he founded the America’s Promise Alliance in 1997–including efforts to prevent students dropping out of high-school.
  3. Powell’s pragmatism, commitment to public service and leadership certainly makes sense in an Obama administration.
  4. Powell, too, has a compelling story–a Harlem native who became the first ROTC officer to chair the Joint Chiefs and counselor to four presidents.

Powell gains from this, too.

When he endorsed Obama, Powell said, “I think the American people and the gentlemen running for president will have to, early on, focus on education more than we have seen in the campaign so far.” Being Ed. Secretary lets him put his money where his mouth is. Last, joining the cabinet would aid in rehabilitating Powell’s reputation. To be honest, he’s still dirty from the run up to the Iraq War. A high profile gig at Ed would be a great bookend to his public service.

I saw the picture above, and fell in love with each of those kids. And I want them to have every opportunity to be great people and great Americans. Let’s put a star at Ed.

A Rose By Any Name

Gravestone of Iraq war hero Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan in Arlington National Cemetery, with his grieving mother.General Colin Powell announced that he was going to vote for Barack Obama, and it’s all the twitter. Calling Obama “transformational” and his own Republican Party “narrower and narrower,” Powell lent the considerable heft of the former general, chair of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State to the candidate that some have said was too inexperienced and lacked judgement.

But this was not the most important thing he did on Meet the Press.

I think that the most important thing that he did was call out the members of his own party who find the practice of Islam a disqualification for the presidency.

I cringe every time someone denies that Barack Obama is Muslim. It goes like this.

“Obama is a Muslim”

“No, he’s not,” said like there is something wrong being Muslim.

Imagine saying there is something wrong with being Catholic, or Jewish. Or think about when you hear boys say, “You are such a girl” as if it’s an insult to be a girl–like their mother, like my mother or my sister. Making who people are synonymous with “you are bad” or “you are a dirty, filthy mother****in’ terrorist” is simply WRONG.

When General Powell told the story of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a twenty year old native of New Jersey who made the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier in Iraq, he reminded us of the best in Americans. And in doing so, called on us all to be the best Americans we can be.

So, we should all learn the name of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. He is a hero. An American hero. And we should all learn that we can be heroes, too.

Yes we can.