Bush gets keys to White House, flexes first presidential muscles
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush dance together at the start of an Inaugural Ball in Washington on Saturday
| WEB EXCLUSIVE|
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a nonstop day that began with prayers in the morning and ended with partying at night, George W. Bush became the 43rd U.S. president Saturday, promising in his inaugural address to build "a single nation of justice and opportunity." (more on Bush's speech)
"Now is not the time for speeches -- it's the time for dancing," Bush joked at the first inaugural ball he visited Saturday night, kicking off a night in which he planned to visit eight balls. The joyous spirit was apparent throughout the day in Washington, although the appearance of thousands of protesters served as a reminder of the contested election that was finally declared a Bush victory in December. (more on the inaugural balls)
Bush assumed the presidency from former President Clinton just after noon Saturday, and quickly moved to assert his new power: Before the inaugural parade had begun, he had formally nominated members of his Cabinet and ordered federal agencies to suspend implementing new regulations within an hour of taking office.
"I'm here to tell the country that things will get done, that we're going to rise above expectations, that both Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what's right for America," Bush, now the 43rd U.S. president, said at a congressional luncheon in his honor Saturday.
Chief Justice William H. Rhenquist delivered the oath of office to Bush at 12:01 p.m., as the new president promised he would "faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and I will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." His swearing-in was preceded by that of his vice president, Dick Cheney.
Bush said in his inaugural address that he would "live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility; to pursue the public interest with courage; to speak for greater justice and compassion; to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well."
He urged Americans "to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor."
After lunch with congressional leaders, Bush's limousine led the inaugural parade down Washington's chilly, rain-soaked streets up to a block from the White House. Then, he and his wife stepped out to walk the last few hundred feet. After a brief look around inside the presidential residence, the Bushes joined Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne on the reviewing stand to watch the remainder of the inaugural parade go by until about 5:30 p.m. EST.
As many as 155 members of the Bush family -- including former President George Bush and first lady Barbara Bush, the new chief executive's parents -- attended Saturday's festivities in Washington.
The transfer of power from Clinton to Bush was the highlight of a long day of inaugural events, which included the massive parade and the round of inaugural balls in the evening.
Thousands of people, including members of the armed forces and many marching bands from Texas colleges and high schools, stepped off on the 1.65-mile parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. The first float, dubbed "Celebrating America's Spirit Together," carried entertainer Wayne Newton; it was followed by the University of Texas Longhorn Band.
At the head of the parade, the presidential limousine was hit by an egg and a tennis ball thrown from the crowd along the roadside. But despite the presence of hundreds of protesters upset by Bush's win in the contentious Florida recount, police reported only four arrests. (more on the protests)
Clinton's long goodbye
Shortly after Bush's inaugural address, former President Clinton departed the Capitol with his family. In a lengthy farewell at Andrews Air Force Base, he told supporters gathered inside a hangar that public service "is a process, not a destination."
"The work of this country will never be over, and no one will get to do it forever. And that's not all bad," he said.
"If you really believe in what we did these eight years, you do not have to be in a position of power, in government, to advance those causes," he added.
Clinton said he and his family -- former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, now New York's junior senator, and daughter Chelsea -- would spend the weekend at their new home in Chappaqua, New York. "Then," he said, "Hillary will show up promptly so as not to miss any votes -- and to fulfill the oversight function of the United States Senate."
In a final reminder of his love of crowds, Clinton lingered in a hangar at the base for more than an hour, shaking hands with the invited guests and clearly enjoying the moment.
The forecast was worsened for the parade later Saturday afternoon, with snow and sleet possible by evening. The weather grounded a Marine helicopter that had been flown to the Capitol to take the Clinton family to Andrews.
Bush calls for unity, justice
In his maiden speech as president, Bush promised to overhaul Social Security and Medicare, and to reduce taxes -- a pledge that drew a loud cheer from the crowd. And he promised to "show purpose, not arrogance" overseas in the service of spreading freedom.
"To all nations, we will speak to the values that gave our nation birth," he said.
Bush's address was crafted with the help of Mike Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter, and Karen Hughes, Bush's longtime communications director. Aides said the speech has been in its final form for several days, and that Bush has been practicing the speech with a TelePrompTer.
During the inaugural address, Bush rarely broke into his trademark grin, looking serious and even somber as he gave the 14-minute speech.
On occasion, Bush carefully touched on the political divisions that became so apparent in his election victory. He is the first president in more than 100 years to reach the office without winning the popular vote, and protesters were loud and active in Washington.
"While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and 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," Bush said.
"We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity."
Bush and his wife, Laura, along with Cheney and his wife, Lynne, went to the White House this morning for a traditional coffee with Clinton, outgoing Vice President Al Gore and their wives, Hillary and Tipper. The Bushes and Cheneys began their day in the traditional Inauguration Day manner, with a worship service held at St. John's Church one block from the White House.
CNN's Major Garrett, Ian Christopher McCaleb and Ted Barrett, and Reuters contributed to this report.