Just back from a world economic forum in Jordan, Powell put the business of the nation aside to encourage members of the Wake County Boys and Girls Club to do their best.
"If you believe you can, you can. If you believe you can't, you never will," he said.
Powell, who went from having a "C" average in high school to becoming the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and now the secretary of state, credits an English teacher for pushing him to speak the language well.
"When you mess something up or something goes wrong, don't get mad. Learn from your experiences," he said.
Powell met with the children in a Winston-Salem airport hangar. He said he envisions they will grow up in a more democratic world, but he told them there will still be battles to fight.
"We still have to worry about the kinds of wars we see in Iraq today where it's necessary to go deal with people who are truly evil," he said.
Many of the kids said they are now inspired to do better.
"I look at it different now -- to go to English class and work hard, so I can become more successful like he was talking about," said Byron Laws, of Raleigh.
When asked what he will do when he retires, Powell said he would see what is out there and there is always an opportunity waiting.
One of the boys in the audience shares the same name with Powell. The secretary of state gave the 10-year-old an autographed baseball cap with "their" names on it.
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