General Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State, was in town Wednesday night, speaking to a packed house on the Lesher Center about his journey from soldier to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the world’s top diplomat during the presidency of George W. Bush.
According to the Contra Costa Times Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Powell met with reporters before his speech. He was the latest luminary to come to Walnut Creek as part of the Lesher Newsmaker Speakers Series.
During that chat with reporters, he didn’t reveal any detailed advice he would give to President Obama on how to handle the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he did speak broadly about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, commented on the state of racism in America, and called the current “uncivil discourse” on health care “unhelpful.”
A backstage view of Powell, his good humor, his keen intelligence, and his views on a variety of matters come from Steve Lesher, the producer of the Lesher Newsmakers Speakers series. Yes, Steve Lesher is the grandson of the late Contra Costa Times publisher Dean Lesher. He produces the series and writes a smart, lively blog, containing updates and behind-the-scenes chronicles on past and future speakers.
Lesher was at a special pre-speech dinner with Powell, then rode with him from the restaurant to the Lesher Center. It was during that ride, according to Lesher, that Powell saw some humor in our community’s brouhaha over whether to allow a new upscale department store to be built in town. As Lesher writes:
"I talked to him a little about Walnut Creek, and the kind of community we are. He was amused by the Nieman Marcus issue, and also amused by the fact that he was playing opposite the Elvis show at the center."
Lesher is referring to All Shook Up, the Elvis Presley-inspired musical now playing at the arts center name for his grandfather.
You can read more of Steve Lesher’s Behind-the-Scenes notes on the Powell speech here, including the fact that Powell doesn’t watch cable TV, but reads six newspapers a day, and can talk with equal deftness about America’s recent political history and, apparently, Mackenzie Phillip’s daughter-father incest revelations on the Oprah Winfrey show.