President Bush announced today he has nominated Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser and one of his closest counselors, to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state.
"The secretary of state is America's face to the world and in Dr. Rice the world will see the strength, grace and decency of our country," Bush said in a brief ceremony at the White House, with Rice at his side.
"During the last four years I've relied on her counsel, benefited from her great experience and appreciated her sound and steady judgment. And now I'm honored that she's agreed to serve in my Cabinet," Bush said.
Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and national security adviser, was the most popular and respected figure with the public in the Bush administration, but he had reportedly clashed with other members of the president's team regarding the war in Iraq.
Bush thanked Powell for his service, and called him "one of the most effective and admired diplomats in America's history."
"Secretary Powell has helped to rally the world in a global war," Bush said. "He's helped to revolve dangerous regional conflicts. He's helped to confront the desperate challenges of hunger, poverty and disease. He has been tireless and selfless and principled, and our entire nation is grateful for his lifetime of service."
Rice, too, had high praise for Powell.
"It is humbling to imagine succeeding my dear friend and mentor Colin Powell," Rice said. "He is one of the finest public servants our nation has ever produced. Colin Powell has been a great and inspirational secretary of state. It was my honor to serve alongside him, and he will be missed."
The president also announced deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley would succeed Rice as national security adviser.
If Rice's appointment is confirmed by the Senate, she will take over the job of international diplomat during a war that has divided the nation and the world.
Rice has loyally defended the Bush administration's track record on the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as its handling of intelligence before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Testifying under oath before the 9/11 Commission, Rice maintained there was no "silver bullet" that could have prevented the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Rice, 50, was the first female U.S. national security adviser. She would be only the second woman and second black to be appointed secretary of state.
Born and raised in segregated Birmingham, Ala., Rice was the child of two educators. After her father took a job in Denver, Rice decided to take college courses while still in high school. She was 19 when she graduated from the University of Denver.
Although she was initially interested in music, Rice began studying the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. She earned her master's degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1975 and received her doctorate from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. She began teaching at Stanford University, where she would later serve six years as provost.