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Colin Powell's Secret of Leadership? Stay Yourself

In a new memoir, the four-star general opens up about Iraq, getting older — and how he met Elvis

AARP Interview wtih Colin Powell

Former U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell shares "Thirteen Rules" that have shaped his career. — Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Q: Why do you think your wife, Alma, fell for you?

A: It was a blind date. I was going with a friend of mine to pick her off so that he could have a clear shot at her roommate. This was in Boston, and I walked in not expecting anything, and there she was. She sat there annoyed that she had been set up like this, but she looked at me, and she ran into the bathroom to clean all of the junk off her face that she had put on to be vampy. And we started dating, and the attraction was fairly immediate.

Q: You served in the army in Europe, where you ran across Elvis Presley a couple of times when he was also a soldier. What was he like?

A: When I met him, he was a sergeant, and we were in the woods in Germany, and he just looked like every other pimple-faced sergeant, trying to get along. And he was a good soldier. He gave up, not that he had any choice, he was drafted, but he just willingly said, "OK, I'm an American, and I will serve." When he was in uniform, and out in the field, doing what other soldiers were doing, he was a fine soldier. And when I saw him, I was a lieutenant, and he properly saluted and sir'd me left and right ... I always admired him, that he served his country, and he knew the service he was providing to his public through his music and his movies, some of which are really quite good. With that combination of things — the physical attractiveness, the attractiveness of his personality, the music — it all came together.

Q: What's pleasantly surprised you about growing older?

A: That I have remained fairly healthy. As one of my friends says, "When I get up in the morning, I put my feet on the floor, and I thank the Lord my sheet was not my shroud and my bed was not my cooling board."

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