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.
A Stellar Academic Career
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.
In 1989, the first President Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, helped convince Rice to leave Stanford and work for him in Washington. She quickly became one of Bush's most trusted advisers. From 1989 through March 1991, the period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, she served in the first Bush administration as director and then senior director of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a special assistant to the president for national security affairs.
Rice's nomination comes just one day after the White House announced Powell had submitted his resignation.
The retired four-star general was known for his moderate views and for reportedly clashing with members of the administration on the issue of Iraq. Even so, it was Powell who went before the United Nations in February 2003 to make a case for the U.S.-led invasion.
Some conservatives, who saw Powell as too moderate for the president's foreign policies, saw this as a positive move.
"The president may for the first time in his presidency have someone at the helm of the State Department who actively and consistently supports his policy," said Frank J. Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy.
Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, also announced today he was stepping down.
The man replacing Rice, Stephen Hadley, has been assistant to the president and the national security adviser since January 2001.
A lawyer, Hadley is a long-time adviser to Bush. During his first presidential campaign, he served as a senior foreign and defense policy adviser.
He worked as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy from 1989 to 1993 and has held numerous other political and civilian posts over the years.