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The Daily Tar Heel

`We Must Show Courage in a Time of Blessing'

The ceremony, counterpointed at times by the distant screams of protesters and police sirens, marked the return of the Bush family to the Oval Office after former President Bill Clinton defeated George Bush in 1992.

The two Bushes are the second father and son to serve as president, after John and John Quincy Adams.

"I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort, to defend needed reforms against easy attacks, to serve your nation -- beginning with your neighbor," Bush said, echoing John F. Kennedy's request for citizens to serve their country 40 years before.

"I ask you to be citizens -- citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character."

Bush emphasized history several times during the ceremony -- describing the United States as a continuous story in his address.

But he did not let the past distract him from the needs of the present -- including racial and social inequality.

"While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country," said Bush, who calls his political message "compassionate conservatism."

"The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools, hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country.

"And this is my solemn pledge -- I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity."

Bush's message of racial unity carried over to his selection of an ethnically diverse Cabinet -- including Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators, some dressed in cowboy boots and hats from Bush's home state of Texas and others waving miniature American flags, braved the cold weather and sporadic rain to watch the inaugural ceremony.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist swore Bush in about noon, while Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, looked on and his wife, Laura, held the same Bible used by George Washington during his inaugural ceremony in 1789 and Bush's father in 1989.

A 21-gun salute followed, disturbing the city's large population of pigeons from their perches.

The inaugural celebration, billed as "Celebrating America's Spirit Together," kicked off Thursday with an opening celebration at the Lincoln Memorial and ended Sunday morning with a service at the National Cathedral.

Bush, speaking on the steps of the Capitol building, broadly outlined his agenda -- re-emphasizing promises made on the campaign trail for education, military and Social Security reforms.

"And we will reduce taxes to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans," Bush added.

During the past weeks, Bush has voiced concerns about problems posed by a slowing economy and advocated his $1.6 trillion plan for tax cuts as the answer.

But the Republican's narrow control over the House and Senate might make it difficult for Bush to pass his more controversial proposals, including a school voucher plan.

Bush also departed from his campaign rhetoric and thanked the departing Clinton, who received a wave of applause from the crowd, for his service to the country.

During his campaign, Bush emphasized a need for the next chief executive to return morality to an office scarred by sexual scandals.

Bush also mentioned his election opponent, former Vice President Al Gore, during his inaugural address.

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"And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace," he said, drawing laughter from some partisans in the crowd.

The presidential election was mired in courts for more than a month, as judges debated how to count Florida's crucial electoral votes.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision led to Bush finally winning Florida's 25 votes and the election despite Gore's victory in the popular vote.

Bush made no other mention of the controversial election, which caused thousands of protesters to descend on the nation's capital, but emphasized cooperation throughout his speech.

" ... Our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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