“I learn more out in the speaking circuit than I do sitting around in Washington,” said Gen. Colin Powell, speaking to thousands of attendees at the General Session of the 2016 REALTORS® Conference & Expo on Saturday. He said that while the public might be worried about the impending election, he is happy to hear how upbeat conference attendees are about the market and their profession. “It is that optimism that I see that fills me with such confidence and joy. I only wish I could bottle it up and pour it over the heads of our congressmen.”
The retired four-star U.S. Army General and former U.S. Secretary of State shared light-hearted reflections about his years in public service and his retirement, (As communications staff pulled the cables from his house after Condoleezza Rice replaced him, he quipped, "Hey, leave me something to call Domino's."), but also got serious about the challenges facing the country.
Powell, 79, said that while most of the public is turned to the presidential race, the larger issue lies with the House and Senate. “Congress is the real problem, more so than the presidency,” he said. “I have never seen a Congress this dysfunctional.”
The never-ending fundraising pressures and the “60-second news cycle” we find ourselves in are the driving factors behind that dysfunction, he said.
“It’s making it harder and harder for [lawmakers] to do their job,” he said. “I have stopped watching American television news shows. You don’t learn anything; you just have your views reinforced.”
He said he will give his unabashed loyalty to whoever wins the election on Tuesday “because the American people made that person president.” But he added that he hopes that individual can begin dialing back the rhetoric that has made this political season so divisive.
“The first priority has to be restoring a sense of peace and quiet,” he said. “The next president has to create a tone where we can start talking to each other.”
Just then, a voice rose from the crowd expressing support for a Powell presidency. Despite the cheers of approval, he replied, “You’re too late, honey. I’m going to be 80 years old; I’m past my sell-by date!”
Finally, Powell sought to empower real estate professionals and other Americans to do their part to hold the media, lawmakers, and the next president accountable for the type of country they want to live in.
“The rest of the world is waiting for us to come out of this period,” he said. “You are the only ones who can fix it. We have to demand it.”