The Thursday keynote delivered by former Secretary of State Colin Powell marks the closing bell for the Dreamforce conference. I’ll be live blogging the event from San Francisco shortly. First, a quick introduction to readers from outside the Unitied States who may not be familiar with Secretary Powell’s background.
Before becoming Secretary of State in 2001, Powell served as a key aide to the Secretary of Defense and as National Security Advisor to President Reagan. He also served 35 years in the United States Army, rising to the rank of Four-Star General and serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989 – 1993).
4:15 pm. audience and press have mostly settled in. Surprisingly high number of foreign journalists, particularly from Japan in attendance.
4:25pm Room just went dark. Dreamforce foundation video goes up on the screen encouraging donating time to community projects.
4:28pm Mark Benioff takes the stage, recalls a story about a conference in which he recalls sitting in a crowd listening to Bill Clinton and other former presidents who encouraged corporate giving. Mentioned that Colin Powell specifically called up on Mark and his team at Oracle to wire up a school. Recalls that many of his employees at previous businesses didn’t show up to help install computers at the needy school because of quarter end business pressures. A call to Colin Powell leads to marines showing up to help wire up the school. “It’s good to be a general”, quips Benioff. He mentions the event was an inspiration to make philanthropy a core part of salesforce’s DNA.
4:40pm Benioff announces a 2 million dollar grant for a planned children’s hospital in San Francisco, a project UCSF is spearheading.
4:42pm Benioff welcomes Colin Powell on stage. Standing ovation. Powell begins by saying the needs of society go beyond providing outstanding software. He continues by saying “it’s a great pleasure to be here with you.. although at this stage in my career, it’s good to be anywhere!”
4:48pm “One day you’re the secretary of state, the next day you’re not. That’s a huge drop off. It’s tough to go from a position where heads of state are clamoring to see you to sitting across from your wife and telling her you won’t be waking up the break of dawn to go see the President. But I’m more energized now as I work with dynamic companies and entrepreneurs. I wish I could bottle up some of the energy out here and take it back to Washington DC.”
4:55pm Secretary Powell speaking about how barely graduated from his alma mater with a 2.0 GPA, and graduated by the yet he is now welcomed back as a distinguished professor. He thinks back on his experience and finds it a national embarrassment that in some municipal areas, plans for new jail builds are based on local dropout rates. He calls it a shameful hypocrisy than education is encouraged and yet kids treated as statistics. Instead, he encourages looking at failed schools as wasted precious resources.
5:10pm “The people who used to clean up my offices as Secretary of State weren’t simply janitors. They were people creating a gleaming image for visitors who come to speak with the United States. We all have a higher purpose in the day to day things we do.”
5:22pm “Some of the great Presidents I’ve worked for maintained an aura of optimism and purpose. They didn’t always know all of the details behind policies or the dynamics of geopolitical issues, but they knew there’s a greater purpose. He recalls one conversation with Gorbechev back when Powell worked for President Reagan. He was sitting across the table from the Soviets who kept speaking about aggression and strategic plans. None of it stuck except for one thing Gorbechev said to Powell: “You will have to find a new enemy.” Gorbechev realized a new purpose was needed as the Soviet Union began to implode. Powell realized The United States’ purpose is now to shift from “us versus them” thinking to a shift in purpose: the goal was now to bring the rest of the world into the free world.
5:30pm Powell adds: “it’s easy to focus on Hugo Chavez ranting on television. If you want to know where we’re really headed, don’t look at Venezuela – look next door to Brazil. They have a sense of purpose: to fulfill their hopes by becoming an economic powerhouse.”
5:40pm Powell finishes by telling the crowd than in an age of information technology and spread of ideas: our purpose has become to be the example, the blueprint which other nations follow to build their own purpose. Crowd gives Powell a standing ovation as he heads to his right to exit the stage. Benioff takes the stage and thanks Colin Powell for the “best speech he’s ever heard in his life.”