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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Colin Powell, Ralph Nader

Aired October 23, 2004 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: In just a minute, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" looks at Ralph Nader, but first, here are the stories now in the news.
Senator John Kerry is in Pueblo, Colorado this hour pushing with his efforts to try to win in the traditionally Republican state. He is campaigning with Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar is hopes of winning votes from the state's growing Hispanic population. President Bush is focusing hard on the critical state of Florida with four stops on today's schedule. In recent days, Bush has campaigned in Democratic leaning areas of the state, but today he is focusing on areas that voted for him in the last election.

Very strong aftershocks are rocking northern Japan hours after the area was hit by three earthquakes. Officials say at least one person was killed and dozens more injured, but Japanese media reports put the number of dead as high as four. The tremors were so powerful skyscrapers swayed in the city of Tokyo, 150 miles away.

I'm Betty Nguyen, more news in 30 minutes. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he took on corporate America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOAN CLAYBROOK, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC CITIZEN: When Ralph Nader would speak, you know, people would say, uh-oh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He rattled an election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In America, everyone has an equal right to run for office.

CROWD: Run, Ralph, run!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Now he's doing it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He's playing the same role that he played in 2000, in trying to siphon votes from John Kerry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: His political determination goes back to his childhood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN MARTIN, BIOGRAPHER: Nader would be forced as an 8-year-old to sit there at the dinner table and to defend his political beliefs.

R. NADER: I'm Ralph Nader running for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: With a little more than a week to go, he's still a man on a mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R. NADER: Everything I do is to fight for the people of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Activist, candidate, enigma. Ralph Nader.

Then, he's the reluctant warrior turned diplomat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: He has what the military folks call a command presence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A moderate at odds with his conservative colleagues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN KESSLER, "WASHINGTON POST": Secretary Powell doesn't have the ideological vent of either Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: His U.N. testimony justifying the world with Iraq would later hurt his credibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: And when I find some of that information was not correct, I'm disappointed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: What's ahead for Secretary of State Colin Powell?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you start talking to the people around him, they say, he's not pleased at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Republicans have helped get Ralph Nader on the ballot. Democrats are fighting to keep him off. But come Election Day, Nader's name will appear on ballots in at least 30 states. The independent candidate may very well be a deciding factor in yet another very close presidential race. From a consumer activist to political lightening rod, a look at Ralph Nader and why he is running. Here is Bruce Burkhardt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When your car scolds you to put on your seatbelt that is Ralph Nader speaking. When the airbag pops out to save you that is Nader also. When you get bumped from an overbooked flight, but walk away with a free ticket, thank Ralph Nader. From the air we breathe to the food we eat, it's hard to go anywhere without running into Ralph Nader's legacy. It's a legacy that seems to crash head-on with more recent history.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Put me on, Gore has retracted his concession.

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Just an hour or so ago, the TV networks called this race for Governor Bush. It now appears -- it now appears that their call was premature.

BRAZLLE: Nader was a force in 2000, he was a force in those key battleground states where, of course, you know, the election was decided by two or three percent of the population.

BURKHARDT: A small fraction of the vote, but enough to end up sending George W. Bush to the White House and enough to brand Ralph Nader as the presidential spoiler.

R. NADER: It irritates them that anybody dares be an underdog candidate and basically say we're going to break up your two-party party.

BURKHARDT: Now, in the midst of another close election, he's at it again.

R. NADER: Today, I entered the 2004 elections as an independent candidate for the presidency of the United States.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Democrats are enraged. They are almost as angry at Ralph Nader as they are at George W. Bush. They are just furious that he's running, and they ask, why? Why is this guy running?

BURKHARDT: So just what makes Ralph run? Is Nader a political visionary or simply a spoiler? Is it ego or a higher calling?

Political psychologist Aubrey Immelman...

AUBREY IMMELMAN, POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: If I had to put Ralph Nader's personality in a nutshell, I would say that Ralph Nader, personality in need of a mission.

BURKHARDT: The mission began in Winsted, Connecticut, a small New England town where Ralph was born in 1934, the fourth and youngest child of Lebanese immigrants. It was a family where citizenship was taken seriously.

Ralph's father, Nathra Nader, ran a restaurant in town. The joke was that for a nickel, you'd get a cup of coffee and all the political argument you would ever want.

R. NADER: Sometimes people would come in, sit down, and they would hear what he had to say, and they say, you know, there are a lot of people that don't agree with that. You're going to lose business. And he said, "Really? Well, isn't that too bad? When I sailed past the Statue of Liberty in 1912, I took it seriously."

BURKHARDT: Back at home, the Nader dinner table also served up plenty of food for thought.

CLAIRE NADER, SISTER: My father asked a lot of questions that he wanted us to think about, not quick answers.

MARTIN: Nader would be forced, you know, as a 7-year-old or as an 8-year-old to sit there at the dinner table and to defend his political beliefs under just intense scrutiny and intense attack from his father.

IMMELMAN: The children were treated by their parents almost as adults. They were not allowed to go to movies unless it had a moral.

C. NADER: It was a strict household, but not harsh. There was that lovely balance between discipline and love.

BURKHARDT: Growing up in Winsted, Nader was always a bit different.

FRED SILVERLO, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: He carried his books in a briefcase to high school for four years. Most of us just packed them under our arm.

BURKHARDT: In 1951, he took his briefcase and headed to Princeton, a place where Nader continued to stand out from the crowd.

MARTIN: He certainly didn't make too many concessions to the style of Princeton at the time, didn't dress in the chinos and the box shoes that were popular during that era.

R. NADER: It was just a wonderful place to go against the grain in order to get a real education. If you went through in a conforming way, you would miss out on a lot. And I went through just the opposite.

BURKHARDT: After graduating from Harvard Law in 1959, Nader found a job at a small Connecticut law firm. He hated it.

Just to get away, he spent his summers as a freelance writer hitchhiking across the country. It would be an eye-opening experience.

MARTIN: And he would often get picked up by truckers, and truckers just had amazing stories about horrible accidents they'd seen, and that got him thinking about, you know, how dangerous cars might be, and he actually saw an accident in which a small girl's head had been -- had actually been decapitated by the glove compartment.

BURKHARDT: Nader had found his calling, a citizen's fight for auto safety.

When we return, the man who doesn't even own a car takes on General Motors.

MARTIN: General Motors hired a couple of really bumbling detectives to try to sort of look into Nader's past and look into Nader's life.

BURKHARDT: Ralph Nader, public crusader...

R. NADER: Society rots from the head down, like a fish.

BURKHARDT: ...or nation's nag.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURKHARDT (voice-over): The early 1960s, an optimistic time for American commerce. At age 29, Ralph Nader didn't share that optimism. The carnage he'd seen on the nation's roads made an impact. Hoping to do something about it, he moved to Washington.

MARTIN: He goes to work in the Labor Department for Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but also he starts moonlighting and starts learning about auto safety, writing articles about it, and ultimately he gets a contract to write a book that became "Unsafe at Any Speed."

BURKHARDT: "Unsafe at Any Speed," an expose blasting design flaws and cost-cutting measures in General Motors cars, particularly the Chevrolet Corvair.

CLAYBROOK: General Motors had hives when they read the book. They hired an investigator. They tried to get some dirt on Ralph Nader.

MARTIN: General Motors hired a couple of really bumbling detectives to try to sort of look into Nader's past and look into Nader's life.

CLAYBROOK: They had sent a prostitute after him, also at the cookie counter at the Safeway, and he had turned her down. And so they thought, well, maybe he is a homosexual.

R. NADER: And then they followed me down to Senate office building, and then they couldn't find me, so they went to the police guard and the guard said, "What are you doing following people here into the Congress? What's your name?"

BURKHARDT: In 1966, a Senate Subcommittee on Traffic Safety saw an opportunity to raise awareness. They put GM's president on the hot seat in a nationally televised hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us assume that you found something wrong with his sex life, what would that have to do with whether or not he was right or wrong on the Corvair?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if you found out he was or was not anti- Semitic? What would that have to do with whether a Corvair...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...was a good or a bad car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing.

BURKHARDT: On nationwide TV, the gangly young lawyer brought GM to its knees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to apologize here and now to members of this subcommittee and Mr. Nader. I sincerely hope that these apologies will be accepted.

BURKHARDT: GM eventually paid Nader $425,000 to settle an invasion of privacy lawsuit. The committee went on to set up a federal agency devoted to traffic safety.

Overnight, Ralph Nader became a household name. He was just getting started.

R. NADER: I felt an opportunity and an obligation to take this attention and support by the public into other consumer, environmental, worker safety areas.

BURKHARDT: The modern muckraker used funds from his GM settlement to create an army of young lawyers, the Nader Raiders.

MARK GREEN, FORMER NADER RAIDER: We were the underfunded people, putting our faces against the pangs of power and yelling, let us in, you're corrupt.

R. NADER: The existing pollution control laws in this country are shams.

BURKHARDT: They spurred the creation of the EPA and other federal watchdog agencies. From air travel to workplace safety, to hot dog ingredients, the Raiders hit hard, and made their boss a feared man in the halls of power.

CLAYBROOK: So when Ralph Nader would speak, you know, people would say, uh-oh.

BURKHARDT: Nader got respect, but he also racked up critics.

FRANCES SMITH, EXEC. DIRECTOR, CONSUMER ALERT: He's pro-big government in almost any situation. In terms of the regulatory burden, it's consumers who end paying as those extra costs are passed on to them in the form of taxation, in the form of high prices.

BURKHARDT: But love him or hate him, Ralph Nader was an icon.

Sharing the stage with trend setters like John Lennon and Yoko Ono on "The Mike Douglas Show."

R. NADER: You'll be more likely to want to vote, particularly at a younger age, if you know what the issues are and if you can push for real choices.

Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!

BURKHARDT: He even appeared later on "Saturday Night Live."

R. NADER: This television studio is in the RCA Building, in midtown Manhattan, the heart of corporate America.

BURKHARDT: Showing a side of himself rarely seen.

As a consumer advocate, though, Ralph Nader was deadly serious and single-minded. He dismissed overtures to run for office, even turning down an invitation to be George McGovern's presidential running mate in '72.

On his own, Nader was a powerhouse, though his own house was, well, less than ordinary.

MARTIN: He didn't have a television, you know, didn't drive an automobile, obviously, lived in a rooming house in Washington, D.C. with several other boarders, didn't even have his own telephone.

GREEN: To call him frugal in my mind is like to assume he's a spendthrift. He bought like 10 pairs of combat boots in the 1950s and wore them for the next 20 and 30 years until they wore out.

BURKHARDT: He founded more than 40 consumer advocacy groups, each with its own area of influence, and all with Nader's fervent frugality. GREEN: So we would have to go across the street, put a coin in a phone booth and make our long-distance calls.

BURKHARDT: Ralph's life has been all about work. He never married. He's said to log 100-hour workweeks. The man who raised a thousand issues never raised a family.

R. NADER: Well, I don't believe in being an absentee father, and when you take on General Motors, and Exxon, and the drug companies, and the banks, and insurance companies, you don't have time for that.

BURKHARDT: But he did have a parent's pride when President Carter tapped dozens of former Raiders to join his staff.

Ralph thought he'd be able to flex some fatherly muscle in the White House. He thought wrong.

MARTIN: He would call up his former employees who were placed in various positions throughout the Carter government and berate them for not getting things done fast enough. He'd claim they were sellouts. It was the beginning of Nader's decline in influence. It also dates the beginning of Nader's disillusion with the Democrats.

BURKHARDT: In the '80s, his star continued to fall. As President Reagan's morning in America was dawning, the sun was setting on Nader's activism.

R. NADER: They shut us out in effect, and that's when you have to heed Thomas Jefferson's historic words, that when you lose your government, you got to go and try to get it back.

BURKHARDT: So Ralph Nader ran for president. In '92 he was a write-in candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. In '96, he ran nationwide as the Green Party nominee, but the unsuccessful candidate still thought he had an open line to the White House.

When we come back, unreturned phone calls, and Nader's transition from gadfly to fly in the ointment.

MARTIN: Al Gore indicted he might call him back, but then Al Gore never called him back. Ralph Nader stewed about that for several years, and then I guess had his revenge in 2000.

CROWD: No more war! No more war!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURKHARDT (voice-over): Nineteen ninety-six, Democrats are riding the Clinton/Gore wave, but Ralph Nader can't even get his calls to the White House returned. GREEN: It is true that Bill Clinton and especially Al Gore ignored Nader and I don't mean ignored him on issues that he was marginal, but on regulatory issues, consumer issues, auto safety issues. You would have thought they would pick up the phone and bring him in occasionally. They didn't.

R. NADER: And they just gave the civic community the straight arm, because they said you've got nowhere to go, you're not going to vote for the Republicans. You're either going to have to stay home or vote for us.

BURKHARDT: Turned away and turned off by the two parties, Nader decided to crash the party in 2000.

BRAZILE: Initially, we ignored Ralph Nader. We didn't think Ralph Nader would be any threat to Al Gore. We left it to the members of the progressive community to attack Ralph Nader, to challenge Ralph Nader. And what we learned over the course of three months leading up to the election in November was that Ralph Nader was picking up steam in crucial battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin.

SCHNEIDER: November 7, 2000, Ralph Nader suddenly became a figure of influence and importance. Why? Because he threw the election to George W. Bush. There were two states in 2000, New Hampshire and Florida, which it can reasonably be argued, based on the evidence, those states went for Bush, but would have gone for Gore if Nader had not been on the ballot.

R. NADER: One assumption is all my votes come from Gore. It's completely false. The exit polls show 25 percent of my votes came -- would have gone to Bush; 38 percent would have gotten to Gore, the rest would not have voted.

I'm Ralph Nader running for president.

BURKHARDT: Not one to back down from controversy, Nader has thrown his hat in the ring yet again, running this time as an Independent.

BRAZILE: I think Ralph Nader has had his own agenda for many years now. He believes that he's the only voice of the progressive movement, the only voice of the left. And as a result of it, Ralph Nader has decided that he should be president and not back the Democratic Party's nominees.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Ladies and gentlemen of the Twin Cities, Ralph Nader!

BURKHARDT: Liberal activist Michael Moore stood up for Nader in 2000, but on "Real Time With Bill Maher," he got on his knees.

BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME": Don't run, please...

MOORE: Don't do this.

MAHER: ...please. GREEN: Ninety-five percent of the people who have worked longest with him and loved him the most, and I include myself in that group, implored him not to run, and walked through the reasons. And to his credit, he was patient, he listened to all of us, saying the same thing. And he said that "It's Lincoln's cabinet, "12 nays, one aye; the ayes have it."

R. NADER: All these people who wrote me letters and asked of me -- they have got good jobs, good benefits, good health insurance, usually a good home. They can go to the theater anytime they want. That's not where my compass comes from.

BURKHARDT: Nader's strong sense of direction has cost him friends and support, and left many wondering just what makes Ralph run?

MARTIN: Because of his upbringing in part, particularly I think because of the fierce political arguments that he would have with his father growing up, Nader, in some ways, he's almost tone-deaf. In his mind, democracy is kind of a contact sport. And so when people were livid, enraged at him, you can have no better person out there, no person better suited to handle that. I mean, he just felt like, oh, this is just democracy as usual.

BURKHARDT: For their part, Democrats are openly trying to stop Nader.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All I'm asking is that we not let the perfect become the enemy of the good, because at this election, it matters.

BURKHARDT: But the citizen candidate remains defiant.

R. NADER: The Democratic Party thinks it owns its voters, and it's willing to play dirty tricks on any challenger, including collaborating with the Republicans to pass laws to erect huge ballot access barriers so that you can't even get on the ballot.

How long is the learning curve before we recognize that political parties are the problem?

BURKHARDT: Even in the face of another presidential dead heat, he still doesn't see himself as a spoiler.

R. NADER: We're either spoilers of all other candidates, because we're all trying to get more votes from each other, or none of us are spoilers if we believe that in America everyone has an equal right to run for office.

BURKHARDT: Is Nader motivated by conviction, political principle, or just plain, old-fashioned ego?

GREEN: When people today say, oh, he's acting out of ego; it's odd, because if you're acting out of ego, merely, he knows if he loses badly and possibly again elects Bush, he could be ruined in terms of his legacy and his memory. R. NADER: Who cares about my legacy? My legacy is established. They're not going to tear any seatbelts out of cars. I look to the future. That's the important thing.

CROWD: We are the union! We are the union!

BURKHARDT: At the age of 70, Nader shows no signs of letting up. His father, in fact, marched on until age 97.

C. NADER: My family doesn't retire. They wear out, I guess. Retire to what?

BURKHARDT: And Ralph Nader is still a man on a mission.

R. NADER: They don't understand me. To me, the greatest gratification in life is fighting for justice, because justice is, as Senator Daniel Webster once said, "the great work of human beings on Earth. You have no liberty, no freedom, no pursuit of happiness without justice."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Ralph Nader is still fighting to get on more ballots. There's also a grass roots campaign to get voters to write in the candidate's name in states where he's not on the ballot.

ANNOUNCER: Next, he's a solider turned diplomat who's waging his own personal battles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WIL HYLTON, "GQ" MAGAZINE: Powell and Rumsfeld do go back a long way and what they go back doing is fighting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Colin Powell's private war ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well good morning on this Saturday. I'm Betty Nguyen. "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" continues right after these stories now in the news.

It's another busy day in several battleground states with both campaigns swarming around several cities and towns. Right now, here's a live look where John Kerry is pitching his platform in Pueblo, Colorado, trying to woe the Hispanic vote there. Later today, he'll head south for a rally in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

For President Bush, it was all about Florida four years ago and it is all about Florida today. He's making four stops in the Sunshine State, all of them in Republican leaning areas. At least one prominent poll of likely voters in Florida conducted a few days ago shows President Bush with a one point lead. Now to Iraq, where at least 12 Iraqis were killed in a pair of suicide car bombings today, one near Samara, the other west of Baghdad. Elsewhere, suspected militants opened fire on a truck convoy in Mosul, killing two truck drivers and wounding two others. All four were Turks.

More news at the top of the hour with "CNN LIVE SATURDAY." Now it's back to "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. For almost four years, Colin Powell has represented the United States in a changing, often hostile, world climate. For most of that time, the U.S. has been at war. Powell also fought his own personal battles within the Bush Administration. As this presidential term draws to a close, the seasoned diplomat looks to the future and weighs his own options. Here's Jonathan Mann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For almost 50 years, he's been a man on the move, first as a soldier and most recently as secretary of state. From Vietnam's jungles to the halls of the White House, Colin Powell is no stranger to conflict.

KESSLER: Secretary Powell comes from the realist school of foreign policy and doesn't have the ideological bend of either Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney.

MANN: Though he's the nation's top diplomat, Powell finds himself on the periphery of his country's largest international endeavor. The war in Iraq is largely the domain of the Defense Department.

KESSLER: What the State Department has been able to do is to slow down or somehow block ideas. But the ideas are really developed at the Defense Department or the vice president's office.

HYLTON: Powell and Rumsfeld do go back a long way and what they go back doing is fighting.

MANN: Earlier this year, the State Department granted "GQ" writer, Wil Hylton a series of interviews with Powell and several lieutenants. Hylton came away with a candid picture of the divide between Powell and the president's inner most circle.

HYLTON: Powell certainly didn't want to go to war with Iraq at the time that we did. And so, for Powell being cut out of those kind of decisions and cast aside and having his opinion being the losing opinion was really frustrating and the people around him describe him unanimously as having been irritated by it, to say the least.

MANN: But Powell soldiered on, maintaining a unified front with the president, even lending his own credibility to the cause at the U.N. in 2003.

POWELL: My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

MANN: Presenting what he called irreparable and undeniable proof that Iraq was not operating with U.N. weapons inspectors, Powell spelled out the United States' rationale for invading Iraq.

KESSLER: I think the secretary would privately admit that that speech was a disaster, that he made a case and it turned out many of the things he said was wrong and it's been a real mark, a real black mark, on his legacy.

POWELL: We now find that some of that information was not correct. I'm disappointed. I don't like having gone out there on the 5th of February. I'm disappointed.

MANN: Four years ago, it was Powell who gave instant credibility to the president-elect, the candidate who had lost the popular vote, by being Bush's first choice for the cabinet.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And ask him to become the 65th secretary of state of the United States of America.

BIDEN: Powell is a man of independent stature. He has built a reputation based on the force of his personality. He has what the military folks call a command presence.

MANN: Powell's journey to the corridors of power in Washington began in the tough streets of New York. He was born in 1937 and his parents soon settled in the Bronx where they managed to keep their kids out of the trouble that tempted so many others.

POWELL: Frankly, it was a very fine upbringing that I received in the South Bronx. We had our problems of drug and crimes and none of our parents were very, very rich. In fact, they were all quite poor.

MANN: His parents, immigrants from Jamaica, worked in the garment district. His mother, Maude, a seamstress, his father, Luther, a shipping clerk foreman. They had come to New York with a dream, determined their children would have a bright future.

MARILYN BERNS, SISTER: We came from a kind of family that raised you and sort of programmed you for success. You know the expectations were there that you would go forth and achieve.

MANN: Colin and his sister, Marilyn, were taught education was the key to success. But all the way through high school, young Colin was hardly passionate about school.

BERNS: Oh, well, I think everybody knows that, you know, his studies were pretty average when he was in school.

MANN: But the melting pot of 1940s New York educated him in other ways.

POWELL: And I learned a great deal about myself on the streets of New York. I grew up with people and went to school with people of all different ethnic origins and backgrounds and religions.

GENE NORMAN, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: The totality of a neighborhood that lets you see the world through many different eyes.

TONY GRANT, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: He prides himself on the ability to speak Yiddish.

NORMAN: Well, I don't believe a word of that.

GRANT: Well, he said...

(LAUGHTER)

GRANT: ... he says it, but we all picked up a little Yiddish. We all picked up a little German, Spanish, Italian.

JOSEPH PERSICO, BIOGRAPHER: Colin Powell had very little sense of being a member of an oppressed minority when he was growing up, because as he put it, he lived among Italians, Jews, Poles, Puerto Ricans. Everybody was a member of the minority.

MANN: Although racism was a fact of life in the 40's and 50's, his parents refused to let their children think of themselves as second class citizens.

POWELL: Well, my parents kept telling me and the adult in my life kept telling me, don't worry about that. Don't care what people say about you or how they point to you and think you're different. You're not different.

MANN: His parents expected him to go to college and so he did, to CCNY, the City College of New York.

POWELL: They let me in with my bad grades and I stayed there for four and a half years -- it was a four-year course -- with bad grades.

MANN: Despite the bad grades, he found his calling. When the story of Colin Powell continues, the sorry student discovers a reason to stay in school.

POWELL: But now I'm the favorite son, the most famous person who ever graduated CCNY and they give me all kinds of honors. And I smile because they were sure anxious to see me go 35 years ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANN (voice-over): After squeaking through high school, the kid from the South Bronx took his "C" average to CCNY, City College of New York. Clearly, academics did not excite him, but something else did. POWELL: I found something that I liked at CCNY. It was ROTC. I liked the discipline and structure of the military. I felt somewhat distinctive wearing a uniform. I hadn't been distinctive in much else.

GRANT: He used to love hiking up and down the block practicing his marching, calling cadence out to himself. He really enjoyed it, so it was without question that Colin was going to be a career man.

MANN: Powell's military career began in 1958, when he received his Bachelor's Degree in Geology and a commission in the United States Army. Colin was now Second Lieutenant Powell.

BERNS: My mother thought, oh this is nice, when he graduated. He'll go in the Army for a few years and he'll come out and get a job.

(LAUGHTER)

MANN: Little did she know her son was in it for the long haul.

POWELL: The Army was the way out for me, the way out of the city. It was an opportunity when there weren't many other opportunities for young blacks, even young blacks who had completed college.

MANN: But when Powell reported for training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he ran into an unexpected roadblock, segregation.

PERSICO: Now, the way Colin Powell handled something like this, yes he's exasperated. He's enraged. But he's not going to let it destroy him. As he put it to me best of all, "I was not going to let other people's opinions of me become my opinion of myself."

MANN: The young man, who had been programmed for success since early childhood, would not be discouraged.

PERSICO: He told me once how one of his officers, early in his career, had said, "Lieutenant Powell, you're the best black lieutenant in the U.S. Army." Powell was not satisfied with that. He didn't want to see this artificial color barrier. He said, "I was determined to become the best lieutenant in the U.S. Army."

MANN: In 1962, the 25-year-old was shipped to Vietnam. Initially excited to serve in combat, he soon became frustrated that decision makers in Washington had not clearly defined the mission and had no plan for getting out.

POWELL: I came away from that experience with a belief that if we're going to send young men and women into harm's way, we should make sure they have a clear purpose that they are fighting for. They understand that purpose. The American people understand it and the American people are supporting them in what they do.

MANN: The United States Powell returned to was very different from the one he had left. Anti-war protests, the Civil Rights Movement, violence was everywhere. The only calm in the storm was on the home front. The newly promoted Captain Powell had married Alma Vivian Johnson in 1963. Over the years, Alma would hold down the fort during her husband's many absences, making sure the growing Powell clan had everything they needed.

PERSICO: Alma Powell accepted that this was the life this man loved and that he had a great deal to give to it, and she accepted her sometimes very difficult role as a mother on her own and also an Army wife who was expected to be charming, tactful, and entertaining. She carried out that role rather beautifully for 35 years, and I think part of his rise is due to the fact that he had a suitable wife.

MANN: With his family in good hands, Colin Powell concentrated on his career. The next big push came in 1972, when Powell's commanding officers ordered him to apply for the White House Fellows Program.

POWELL: The beautiful part about the Army is that they were always -- they were always giving me something that was beyond me. They were always testing me. And by being pushed, I grew fast.

MANN: Out of 1,500 applicants, he was accepted, and once again rose to the challenge.

FRANK CARLUCCI, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If you gave him a project, it got done. It got done effectively. It was easy to spot him as a rising talent at that time.

MANN: Then another golden opportunity. Powell was named military assistant to the secretary of defense, and was exposed to decision making at the highest levels.

POWELL: At some point in my career, I realized I was doing well enough to become a general.

MANN: So Colin Powell left Washington for an assignment at Fort Carson, Colorado, one that would put him within reach of that once unthinkable goal, but the newly minted general would not stay away from the Capitol for long.

CARLUCCI: He didn't want to come back, but we had Ronald Reagan call him and he agreed to come back.

MANN: It was an offer he couldn't refuse, deputy national security adviser. He was later promoted to national security adviser, a first for an African-American. When George Bush became president, he kept Powell close by, naming him to the highest military rank in the country, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell exploded onto the scene in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Powell was initially reluctant to commit U.S. troops, but eventually he became one of the administration's most trusted spokesmen, when the assault on Saddam Hussein's army finally came.

POWELL: Our strategy to go after this army is very, very simple. First, we're going to cut it off and then we're going to kill it.

MANN: When the war was over, Powell had become a national hero. Powell's term extended into the Clinton administration, where he again argued against military action. This time, in Bosnia. Even though ethnic cleansing reached gruesome proportions, the mission did not fit the parameters of the Powell doctrine.

POWELL: I have been characterized as the reluctant warrior. Guilty. But I follow in a long tradition of American generals who have always been reluctant warriors.

MANN: In 1993, Powell retired to write his memoirs with a reported $6 million advance. Published in late '95, the promotional tour was mobbed.

POWELL: I'll take a question.

SAM DONALDSON, CORRESPONDENT: General, is this really the start of a book tour or the start of a presidential campaign?

POWELL: Today, it's the beginning of a book tour, Mr. Donaldson, and...

DONALDSON: And tomorrow?

POWELL: And tomorrow, we'll continue to promote the book, but at the same time, we'll be traveling around the country, meeting many Americans and answering any questions they may wish to put to me.

MANN: With both Democrats and Republicans courting him, Colin Powell weighs his options next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The latest CNN poll has you right now ahead of both President Clinton and Senator Dole. How does that make you feel?

POWELL: Well, I'm not worrying about the polls or paying attention to polls right now.

MANN: With a runaway best seller, and sky-high ratings in the polls, Colin Powell in late 1995 was at a crossroads.

POWELL: The question I faced was, should I enter politics and seek the presidency of the United States.

MANN: But it was no secret that Alma Powell, his staunchest supporter for 32 years, did not want him to run. After months of public speculation and weeks of private anguish, he concluded he lacked the passion to run a successful presidential campaign.

POWELL: The passion and commitment that, despite my every effort, I do not yet have for political life.

MANN: But he now clearly committed to a party, the Republicans. At the 2000 Republican Convention, staged to showcase the party's new inclusive image, Powell blasted the conservatives on affirmative action.

POWELL: Some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education. But you hardly hear a whimper when it's affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax code with preferences for special interest. It doesn't work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, Colin Powell...

MANN: Despite his differences with the party's right wing, Powell's credibility with the public made him a natural choice for the new Bush administration. The State Department staff literally cheered when Powell took command.

POWELL: Thank you very much.

MANN: Expectations were high. But his temperate approach clashed with more influential members of the president's national security team.

BIDEN: In this administration, the overwhelming part of the foreign policy establishment is very hard right, movement right conservatives.

MANN: Powell advocated caution and coalitions. The prevailing view in the administration was that the victor in the Cold War could impose its will unilaterally.

BIDEN: There seems to be a real distrust among movement conservatives, the right wing of the Republican Party in control of this administration, a real distrust for Powell.

MANN: But among world leaders and within the American public, Powell's popularity soured. In April of 2001, he negotiated the release of U.S. Navy air crew that had crash landed in China. After that, even the president's conservative inner circle applauded the secretary of state.

Throughout his run, Powell, dutifully supported the president. From Washington to Islamabad, he built alliances and promoted U.S. interests.

KESSLER: One of his great heroes is George Marshall who was also a former general, the secretary of state under Truman. And Marshall once said, you know, our duty is to follow the instructions of the people who are elected.

MANN: And so the reluctant warrior set aside whatever private reservations he may have had with the president's war plan.

HYLTON: Powell is not going to say "I'm not going to the United Nations."

POWELL: How much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's non-compliance before we, as a council, we, as the United Nations, say enough, enough?

HYLTON: And then when you start talking to the people around him and asking them, how's he feeling about this because he seems to be contradicting opinions he's held in the past. They say oh, no, he's not pleased at all. He can't wait to get out of this administration.

MANN: But regardless of whatever private discord there may be, Colin Powell has publicly lived up to his diplomatic title. From the war on terror to the current presidential race, the secretary of state has shown nothing but support for his boss.

POWELL: I was solidly behind that policy, solidly behind what the president found he had to do last spring when he undertook Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I'm pleased that that dictator is gone.

MANN: He remains the tireless statesman, the loyal soldier, accomplishing missions and revealing nothing about his own future. Whatever Powell's next step, the man who spent his life on the move shows no signs of ever completely slowing down.

KESSLER: He's a youthful man in his late 60's and I think he -- you know, for another 20 years, you'll be hearing from Colin Powell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Though his current term as chief diplomat is almost over, Colin Powell is certainly not slowing down. This weekend, he's traveling to Japan, China and South Korea seeking support in the war on terror and trying to restart talks on the North Korean nuclear situation.

And that's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week on the eve of the presidential election, the wives of the White House contenders, Laura Bush and Theresa Heinz Kerry. I'm Paula Zahn, thanks so much for joining me.

ANNOUNCER: And more people in the news, please pick up a copy of "People" magazine.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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