This year’s opening keynote speech was given by General Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State. He focused on how the definition of leadership does not differ if you are talking about leading in the military, or leading in the green building movement. He said that leaders are those that change attitudes and behaviors and get inside the decision-making cycle, but also praise and recognize the followers that share their mutual purpose. Leaders also do not dwell on boundaries, but rather are optimists. In between light-hearted jokes, Powell’s voice boomed with enthusiasm and pride in all who promote the green economy.
General Powell has been involved in several green initiatives in his retirement years, such as sponsoring a LEED Platinum apartment housing development in his impoverished boyhood neighborhood in the Bronx. Constructed by Habitat for Humanity, the building is named after General Powell and houses low- and middle-income families. Powell is also involved in a venture capital company that funds information technology and clean energy companies, like Bloom Energy. His speech was moving, engaging, and a great way to start the conference.