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New president wastes little time exercising powers

Bush promises to 'build a single nation of justice and opportunity'

story.bush.jpg
Bush: "Sometimes our differences run so deep it seems we share a continent but not a country."  

January 20, 2001
Web posted at: 5:04 PM EST (2204 GMT)


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and first lady Laura Bush became the standing residents of the White House on Saturday after braving cold, damp Washington streets to complete the last block of the president inaugural parade on foot.

Bush assumed the presidency from former President Clinton just after noon Saturday.

He wasted little time exercising his new powers, nominating members of his Cabinet and ordering federal agencies to suspend implementing new regulations within an hour of taking office as the 43rd U.S. president.

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"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 said at a congressional luncheon in his honor Saturday.

Chief Justice William H. Renquist 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.

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In his inaugural address, Bush promised to "build a single nation of justice and opportunity."

"I will 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 said. 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."

The president-elect 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. The transfer of power from Clinton to Bush was the highlight of a long day of inaugural events, which include the afternoon's inaugural parade and the round of inaugural balls in the evening.

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Clinton departed the Capitol with his family shortly after Bush's address. He told supporters gathered at Andrews Air Force Base 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.

Bush took office under cold, rainy skies in Washington -- and the forecast was worsening for the parade later today, with snow and sleet possible. The weather grounded a Marine helicopter that had been flown to the Capitol to take the Clinton family to Andrews.

During the address, the new president rarely broke into his trademark grin, looking serious and even somber as he gave the 14-minute address.

The 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.

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 are loud and active today 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.



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Tribute to former President Bush yields discussion of Florida Election
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Bill Press: Clinton walks off the stage
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Stuart Rothenberg: For George W. Bush, the past is prologue
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Robert Novak: Inauguration speech is Bush's first test
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RELATED SITES:
The White House
Bush-Cheney Transition
Presidential Inaugural Committee 2001

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