Inaugural message marked by hope and freedom


Published: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 12:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 1:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON - George W. Bush stood at the brink of a second term in turbulent times on Thursday with a pledge to seek "freedom in all the world" as the surest path to peace.

"In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty," the nation's 43rd president said in inaugural address excerpts released in advance of the noontime swearing in at the Capitol.

Bush awoke before dawn in the White House, the nation's cold capital under security so tight that 100 square blocks were sealed off to traffic.

The president, his wife Laura and their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, traveled by motorcade to St. John's Church a few blocks away for the traditional pre-inauguration prayer service.

A crowd of 100,000 or more was expected outside the Capitol, where Bush stood four years earlier to take the oath of office for the first time.

That was before terrorists struck the United States, plunging America into a new era, and prompting the president to order the invasion of Afghanistan and _ controversially _ Iraq. The inaugural pageantry unfolded half a world away from that conflict _ a war and messy aftermath that has claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Americans and was a key fault line in last fall's election.

Bush's victory made him the 16th president in American history to win a second full term, leading Republicans to larger majorities in the House and Senate. He has outlined a conservative second-term domestic agenda that includes major changes in Social Security and taxes.

But with the war a concern, he was beginning his new term with the lowest approval rating at that point of any recent two-term president _ 49 percent in an Associated Press poll this month.

The Constitution commanded that Bush take the oath of office at the stroke of noon. Tradition dictated the Capitol as the setting, curiosity and celebration accounted for the throng that traditionally spilled down Capitol Hill toward the historic National Mall and the monuments beyond.

Tradition, too, called for Chief Justice William Rehnquist to administer the oath of office. At 80, ailing with thyroid cancer, he symbolized an aging court _ and the likelihood of political warfare with Democrats if the conservative president had second term appointments to make.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush's powerful second-in-command chose House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois to swear him in for a second term.

Bush's speech excerpts referred unmistakably to the attack and the events that have followed.

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," the prepared remarks said,

"The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

The Rev. Dr. Luis Leon greeted the Bushes outside the church. In his short sermon inside, he referred to the transforming events of Sept. 11, 2001. Americans have lived in fear since then, he said. "Help us to overcome our fears," he urged the president and other worshippers.

Bush's father, the 41st president, was among family and friends who joined him for breakfast at the White House on this historic day of inaugural pomp and pageantry for the first family and the nation.

The inauguration "is a cause that unites our country and gives hope to the world," he said Wednesday evening just before red, white, blue and gold fireworks showered the dark sky over the National Mall. Then, reaching to his religious faith, Bush said, "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom, and America will always be faithful to that cause."

Although Bush extolled that heavenly blessing for the cause of liberation, he also acknowledged an earthly recognition of the limits of power. "I'm going to give it my all for four more years, and then I'm coming home to Texas," he told cheering supporters.

His White House chief of staff, Andy Card, said Bush wants to make the best of the time he has left in office.

"The president fully understands that he has an opportunity to change America and to change the world, and the window of opportunity won't stay open very long," Card told ABC's "Good Morning America."

With more than 500,000 people expected for the inauguration and parade that follows, and security was a priority. Snipers stood on rooftops and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the streets. Miles of metal barricades gave a fortress-like feel to the city, which is well acquainted with post-Sept. 11 security.

Inauguration is a time of unity for our country, Bush said Wednesday night as he made the rounds of pre-inauguration festivities.

"With the campaign behind us, Americans lift up our sights to the years ahead and to the great goals we will achieve for our country. I am eager and ready for the work ahead."

Bush's inaugural address had gone through 21 drafts as of Wednesday afternoon and was timed at 17 minutes. Aides said it was thematic, leaving new initiatives to be spelled out in the president's State of the Union speech on Feb. 2.

Not everybody was cheering four more years of Bush.

He was the first president since 1936 to be re-elected while his party expanded majorities in the House and Senate, yet deep divisions in the nation remain. Bush's 3 percentage point margin in the popular vote was the lowest of any incumbent president to win re-election.

Some anti-Bushites took vacations to get away from the inaugural hoopla while others flocked to Washington to give the president a symbolic snub. They planned to turn their backs on the president as his motorcade rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the Net:

The 55th Presidential Inauguration

http://www.inaugural05.com/

A Vision of America

http://inaugural.senate.gov/index.cfm

Bush's inauguration to reflect nation at war

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6717767/

Online News Hour: Inaguration 2005

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/inauguration2005/index.html

Pirate radio calls for inauguration protests

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/12/22/pirate.radio/

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