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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Sidney Poitier

Oscar for Best Actor

I said to myself, "How did he know that I was a dishwasher?" He suspected. I said, "I didn't tell him that. I didn't say anything about dishwashing." That was one thing I wouldn't have told him. And I realized then and there that what he said was his perception of my worth. He perceived me to be of no value beyond something that I could do with my hands. And while he was correct in his anger to characterize me that way, I was offended. I was offended deeply. And I said to myself, "I have to rectify that. I have to show him that he was wrong about me." I decided then and there that I was -- this is a wild decision I made, of course, but I did decide then, at that moment, on that street, that I am going to be an actor just to show him that he was wrong about me. And then I would give up the acting, because what do I want to be an actor for? I committed myself to that. That goes to show you that I was a rather peculiar kid. Luckily, I wasn't around psychiatrists and all that kind of stuff, because they probably would have marked me as a guy who was a little off his rocker.
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Sidney Poitier

Oscar for Best Actor

Sidney Poitier: I continued working as a dishwasher, and I learned that there were no other theatrical groups in Harlem at that time of the same caliber as was the American Negro Theatre. And I decided that I wanted to -- no, I learned that they had a school system where they taught acting and stuff. So I wanted to get in there. I also learned that there were some very prestigious black actors and actresses who were affiliated with this. So I set my sights there. And I learned that they had auditions every three, six months or so. So I decided that I would go there and take an audition.
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Sidney Poitier

Oscar for Best Actor

I went in and I auditioned for them. And they said, "Thank you." They said, "We'll let you know." And they did, indeed, let me know. And the note came that I wasn't selected. I was crestfallen. So, I couldn't give it up. So I went back to them. I walked in and there was a lady at the desk. And I said, "I took an audition the other day, and I wasn't accepted." I said, "However, I'm here today to ask if this is a possibility." And she said, "What?" I said, "I noticed that you don't have a janitor." And I said, "I will do the janitor work for you because it's not a big deal, you know, you have a fairly small place here and stuff. I will do the janitor work for you in exchange for letting me study here."
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Sidney Poitier

Oscar for Best Actor

I left the theater after I came off, saying to myself, "That's it, I tried, I am not gonna be an actor. I don't have the gift. And it's silly for me to be (doing) this. Okay, I did it, I've stuck to it, and I don't have it." So I left, and I went walking about in New York City. And on my way home, about 11:30, 12 o'clock at night, I'm on my way to my room where I had my residence, I decided to pick up the newspapers, and I picked up, I guess, The Daily News. And there were, believe it or not, there were 13 major newspapers in New York City at that time. Anyway, in three or four of them, I was mentioned very favorably. Well my dear, being -- well, being, being, being -- I changed my mind. I wasn't gonna quit the business so quickly!
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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

Colin Powell: And then I think in one of the sad chapters of American history, having promised the South Vietnamese that we would come to their assistance with more weapons and ammunition if they needed it, the United States Congress finally abandoned them. That went against our word. Whether they would have prevailed even if we hadn't abandoned them is, I think questionable. I think they would probably have lost anyway, but I wish they had not lost on the heels of an American abandonment. So it was a very dismal period. And when it was all over, I was still a professional soldier, now a lieutenant colonel. And we were in an army that had been seen as the loser in this war. We were shaken to our core. We had lost a generation of leaders. We'd had the scandal of My Lai. We had racial relations. The American people said, "We want out of the draft. We no longer want to have a draft." In fact, they were separating themselves from the army. "You just go out and recruit and that's what you get. But no more draft." So we ended the draft. There was an estrangement between the American people and its military. But I was a professional soldier, and so it was my job to work in that world and try to fix it, repair it. And one of the things I'm proudest of in my life is that over the next 15, 17 years, working with great leaders and finally with the new political leadership that came in with the Reagan Administration -- political leaders who told us to be proud of ourselves once again and gave us the resources to really finish the transition to a modern, powerful army -- we became a force that the nation once again was proud of. And we saw the result of that in Desert Storm.
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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

Colin Powell: I've had problems in my career, I've had downturns. I've had people who thought I wasn't very good, and said so in writing. I've had assignments that didn't come along when I thought they should have come along. There have been several times in my career where I thought I had reached as high a level as I was going to reach, and had started to make alternative plans, when suddenly luck came along, and things changed, and so it just kept going.
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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

Colin Powell: We bombed a complex overnight, an Iraqi bunker that we thought was a command and control bunker. Turned out it was a command and control bunker, it was a military installation. But what we didn't know was they packed it with civilians. Maybe the civilians went there for protection, but it was the worst place to go for protection. We weren't bombing their neighborhoods, we were bombing their bunkers. But that's where 300 civilians were. So there you are, faced with, "You terrible people! You've killed several hundred innocent civilians!"
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Dan Rather

Broadcast Journalist

I hitchhiked up to Sam Houston State Teacher's College, which was on the Dallas Highway, 70 some odd miles north of Houston. It was a small college and I thought, "Well, the University of Texas, SMU, Rice, A&M, our larger football factories have failed to recognize my prowess so I'd probably have a little better luck at a smaller place." And I hitchhiked to Sam Houston State Teacher's College. And I didn't know who the football coach was but I asked. It was a guy named Puny Wilson. I asked where he was and they said they thought he was in the gym watching basketball practice. I went to the gym and I sidled up to him and I introduced myself. He looked at me like I was a hitchhiker with pets. I told him I was a football player and that I'd appreciate it very much if he'd consider me for a scholarship. And he looked at me, and looking back on it, I think he was kind of amazed but I also think he kind of respected it. He had not heard of me, which was no surprise, but he basically said, "Well, when do you graduate?" I told him I was a midterm graduate. I said, "Well, I graduate in two weeks." It was just after Christmas in January. He said, "Well, spring practice starts (I've forgotten the date) sometime in March and I'll be glad to see you there." I left the gym absolutely walking on air because this to me was my ticket to get to college.
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Dan Rather

Broadcast Journalist

Anyway, Coach Puny told me -- he was kind about it but he was also forceful about it --that not only was I not getting a scholarship but he made it pretty clear that I wasn't likely to have one in the future. If I was a project, I was too big of a project for Coach Puny. And I left his office and it was raining, and I walked in the rain, and I cried about it, which I'm not proud of. I shouldn't have, because I was already grown, but it meant a lot to me. But in I guess kind of a perverse way, I had some pride that I really had stuck it out. And you know, you never know when you're a teacher, you may say something to a child or even a young man who is a student, that you have no idea it's going to stick with him for a long time. But Puny, who was a kind of idol, partly because he was a coach, also because he'd been All-American -- you know, big, raw-boned country guy. The only thing he gave me -- he didn't give me a scholarship, he didn't give me any hope, he didn't give me any phony expectations, but he shook my hand. He says, "You didn't quit." And so in my disappointment, in my --I think it's not too strong a statement -- my crushed state, I had that. Now my journalism teacher, Hugh Cunningham, when I went to him, he said, "Well thank God! Thank heaven. That foolishness is over. You know, you're not a football player. You're weren't going to be a football player. It's not compatible with my making a journalist of you. So let's suck it up here and let's have some supper and let's talk about how you're going to be a great journalist."
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Dan Rather

Broadcast Journalist

Somebody once said, you know, "It's good to be smart, brilliance is even better, but persistence will trump them both if it comes down to that." My whole professional life has taught me of the importance of "if you have a goal don't give up on it. If you have a dream, don't let the dream die." That what's absolutely essential is a fierce blinding determination to make it, and it doesn't always have to manifest itself in aggressive ways. But the persistence of just putting one foot in front of the other and just keep on keeping on no matter what the odds, no matter how dark it looks, just say, "Well listen, if I can make one more minute, I can make one more hour, I can make one more day, make one more week, make one more month." It's impossible to overestimate the importance of that in my opinion and based on my experience. Somebody half jokingly said, you know, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." I think there's something to that. I think if you show up, that's a lot of it. And then if you stick to it, those are, I think, the two biggest things. Go for it, stick to it. Listen, God's grace and luck plays a lot, timing, all of those things come into it, but I think they're infinitesimal compared to sticking to it.
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