April 1, 1996
Retired Army General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, presented the inaugural address in the Great Names at Hamilton series. For Powell, now Secretary of State under George W. Bush, this speech marked his first public appearance in the Central New York region.
Powell’s visit came shortly before the 1996 election, and in his speech he reinforced his conviction to avoid the office of vice president. He told reporters, “I enjoy being a private, quiet Republican.” He stood by this claim throughout the night, as he talked little about politics before the audience of 4,700. Rather, he spoke of his childhood and his upbringing, and the values instilled in he and his sister by their parents. He related humorous anecdotes to the crowd, which was very receptive overall. Giving back to the community was a major theme of his speech. “Make sure you reach down and reach back. You just don't go forward. Always find a way to give back to your community,” he urged.