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Colin Powell urges grads to work hard, give back

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told new High Point University graduates the world is theirs.

His other advice: Dream big. Work hard. And, when you find success, give back.

"If you want to save the world, my friends, and I hope you all do, start by just saving one kid," the retired Army general told the graduates. "That's what this world is all about."

Powell, the keynote speaker Saturday for the university's largest graduating class -- 1,000 students -- stressed the importance of helping others. His message of saving one child at a time resonated with educators Alex Cranston and LaTina Robinson.

Cranston, 23, received a master's degree in elementary education and teaches at Montlieu Academy of Technology in High Point. She said what she learned at High Point University has enabled her to show compassion and integrity with her students, some of whom may have difficult home lives.

Cranston said she can "encourage them that they can be more than what they came from."

Robinson, who received a master's degree in educational leadership, said she is embracing Powell's message of helping one child at a time.

"That fully agrees with my values and what has been instilled in me here as a graduate of High Point University," said Robinson, 43.

Speaking to a crowd of about 10,000, Powell's message mixed humor and encouragement.

He told graduates they can succeed regardless of whether they were top students.

He used himself as an example.

"I wasn't considered one of (the City College of New York's) greatest successes at the time that I graduated," Powell said.

He said the A's he earned in ROTC helped boost his GPA to 2.0 -- enough for him to graduate 56 years ago. "School officials said, 'That's good enough for government work. Get him out of here and we'll never see him again,'" Powell said, drawing laughter.

"Now, I'm back and I'm back in spades."

Now, his alma mater has named things in his honor, including the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. Powell holds leadership positions at the school.

And, he said to more laughter, "my old professors are rolling over in their graves."

Powell was the first African American to become U.S. secretary of state.

He also was the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's top military position.

And Powell was the founding chairman of America's Promise Alliance, a youth-focused organization now led by his wife, Alma.

Powell shook hands with each graduate as they accepted their diplomas when they marched across the stage.

Alexander Adams, who earned a bachelor's degree in political science, was all smiles after he stepped offstage and headed back toward his seat.

"It was just great. Astounding. All the great words that you could find, it was just all that together," Adams said. "It was just too much, you know?"

@mbrownNR

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