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Colin Powell is very clear about not only his priorities but the country’s.

“Our nation faces many challenges and none is as important as the education of our youngsters,” says the former secretary of state and secretary of defense.

“We must end the drop-out crisis. One-third of our children do not finish high school. For minorities, the number is 50%. We cannot afford this waste of human talent. We must direct more of our children into math and science. We must not become technically behind as we try to keep up with the nations of the world.”

Powell credits those closest to him for making the difference in his own life.

“Many people have influenced and inspired me along the way and I thank them,” he begins.

“But it started with my parents, two immigrants from Jamaica who came to America for jobs, hope and an opportunity. They taught me and my sister to always do our best, never shame the family and to believe in ourselves and to believe in America.”

More on the NAACP Image Awards:
Tentpoles all in one color? | President’s Award: Colin Powell | Chairman’s Award: Dr. Regina Benjamin