PHOENIX -- Speaking to a rapt audience at the AWEA Wind Energy Fall Symposium in Phoenix, Ariz., retired General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell challenged the industry to fulfill its "noble pursuit" to "make America safer, more competitive, and make sure there's enough energy not just for us but for the people of the world."
Amid a string of stories about his decades of service to his country, Powell shared management advice - "inspire the followers," he said, "so that everyone understands one another and are united in a common purpose that is greater than just the goals we are trying to achieve."
He urged the recovery of moral authority, saying "selflessness is the moral compass we all have to get back to in our country."
In that context, he underscored the importance of the wind industry's work, which he said involves simultaneously serving the world's growing energy demand, protecting the environment, and spreading wealth across the globe.
Wind has always played a historically significant role, Powell observed, powering the Venetians' sails and Europeans' water mills.
Today, he said, "your purpose is to make sure that America - and not just America, the world - becomes more independent of fossil-fuel-based forms of electric generation."
Powell said his current passion is for his venture capital firm because it invests in the big ideas of the future. He said while the U.S. wind industry is currently waiting for the right government signals to fulfill on its promise, "there's no question in my mind that the curve is in the right direction."
"You're doing much more than building turbines," he said. "In the coming years there will be a premium on energy activities that also protect the environment as the global demand for energy increases. Wind is stimulating economic growth, helping bring people out of poverty, and providing one of the cleanest ways to do it."
Powell maintained that the world still looks to America for leadership. Yet, he noted, in spite of America being the most innovative nation and the country to which other countries look in order to solve global conflict and provide security, European and Asian nations are taking the lead in renewable energy development.
But Powell said the answer does not lie in barriers to free trade. "China is ahead of us, but that's not the point...we have to do what we have to do for America and for the rest of the world," he said. In a flattened world, he said, "everything flows through the global system - we cannot shut ourselves off from that just to say we're safe...We're Americans, and we're not afraid of anybody; we have to remain open for business."
Powell's passion for democracy and stalwart pride in his country resonated throughout his remarks. "People come here for the beauty and power of our system," he said. He said wind energy can serve American values, and contribute to solving global problems.
"We're still the land of hopes and dreams," Powell told his audience of some 700 conferees from the wind industry. "What you're doing is so vital to our security and well-being."