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Powell criticizes NC voter laws at CEO event

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© WNCN - Colin Powell addressing the 2013 NC CEO Forum © WNCN - Colin Powell addressing the 2013 NC CEO Forum
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The country's former top military officer and the head of an Internet giant were the main attractions at a gathering of North Carolina business executives Thursday morning, and Gov. Pat McCrory was also in attendance at the 2013 N.C. CEO Forum.

The CEO Forum started at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell spoke after the governor. Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers was also scheduled to speak.

McCrory spoke about the importance of a good education and the challenges that come with it. McCrory said education is "the biggest challenge," and that another challenge in education is to get kids interested in math and similar technical education.

The governor also spoke on the importance of making sure the state's rural areas are hooked up and ready to use the latest technology.

Powell spoke on topics ranging from education, gridlock in Washington to leadership, among other topics. The News & Observer quoted Powell as criticizing some of the Republican-led changes in the way North Carolinians vote.

"These kinds of actions do not build the base. It just turns people away," Powell said, according to the newspaper. "What it really says to the minority voters is ... 'We really are sort-of punishing you.'"

Powell disputed arguments by McCrory and some legislative Republicans that voter fraud likely exists but is hard to detect.

"You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud," Powell said. "How can it be widespread and undetected?"
    
McCrory's office issued a statement after Powell's speech thanking him for complimenting some of the initiatives the governor has focused on since taking office in January, but "on voter ID we respectfully disagree."

Powell said he's never seen Washington the way it is now, with lawmakers unable to work together to find solutions to the nation's problems. He also said that political compromise is far more difficult than in the past due to cable television and the Internet because people feel they can't be as open.

On leadership, Powell said it's all about trust and toughness. He said that leadership is about trust between two people, but that toughness is just as important. If people weren't in harmony with him, sometimes it came down to firing them, Powell said. 

North Carolina business leaders hobnobbing at the event include key executives of GlaxoSmithKline President, Duke Energy, drug-testing firm Quintiles and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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