Excerpt: "Soldier: the Life of Colin Powell"

Powell received high praise when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the day after the speech to testify on the State Department budget. "I'd like to move the nomination of Secretary of State Powell for President of the United States," Democrat Joseph Biden gushed.

It fell to a Republican to bring the love fest back to earth. "Easy there," said Richard Lugar of Indiana, the committee chairman, admonishing Biden with a smile.

Although a majority of congressional Democrats closed ranks behind the president, some still spoke out against the push toward war. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts conceded that Powell had made a "strong case" but said the administration had not yet demonstrated that "war is the only recourse." Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean agreed, saying he had heard little from Powell "that leads me to believe that there is an imminent threat warranting unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq." Those closest to Powell were glad it was all over but were worried about both him and the nation. Alma had a sense of foreboding; her husband, she thought, was being used by the White House. Colin's daughter Linda listened to the speech on the car radio as she drove from New York to Vermont. She had heard her father speak in public countless times but found this performance unsettling. His voice was strained, she thought, as if he were trying to inject passion into the dry words through the sheer force of his will.

Wilkerson, who had left the United Nations immediately after the speech and returned to his hotel room to fall into a deep sleep, awoke depressed. He would later come to think of that week, and its dramatic culmination, as "the lowest moment of my life." Back in Washington, he ordered special plaques with Powell's signature made up for the State Department aides who had worked so hard to make the presentation happen. When they were handed out, Powell asked Wilkerson why he hadn't ordered one for himself. Wilkerson replied that he didn't want one.

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