A Day in History: Inauguration Day for Bill Clinton
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
KWAME HOLMAN: As they did four years ago, the First Family began their most public day at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church a few blocks from the White House.
PASTOR LOUIS-CHARLES HARVEY, Metropolitan AME Church: We welcome you as our President and Vice President and you all as friends and co-workers for God. We rejoice, as I’m sure you do with the psalmist when he wrote, I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord. May God continue to give choice lessons upon each one of you. Amen.
KWAME HOLMAN: The multi-faith prayer service was a celebration of the President’s inauguration but also took note of today’s national holiday commemorating the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Former King aide Rev. Jesse Jackson was principal speaker.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: Think of the odds against him. Segregation locked us in for a hundred years and forced by the courts, Klans, and clubs. The U.S. Senate dominated by Southern barons. The experts said there was no chance to pass civil rights laws or voting rights laws, or just this, Dr. King had, just room. He knew that the South could not grow in the state of segregation. If blacks were oppressed, whites were stigmatized. The problem with keeping someone in the ditch is that you must remain there with them. And ending segregation and bringing down the cotton curtain, you lifted the entire South, black and white together. Civil rights laws treat not simply blacks but whites. Today when President Clinton and Vice President Gore are sworn in, it proves that we rise together. Dr. King’s example speaks to us on this day.
GROUP SINGING TOGETHER: Praise God. Praise God–
KWAME HOLMAN: Joined by First Lady Hillary Clinton, 16-year-old daughter Chelsea, and Vice President and Mrs. Gore, the President prayed, swayed, and sang long enough to put the morning behind schedule. The President returned to the White House for coffee with the congressional leadership, followed by the traditional ride up Pennsylvania Avenue to the capitol for the swearing in ceremony. Across the West front of the capitol and the national mall, hundreds of thousands stood in the first above freezing temperatures in Washington in the last several days.
On the podium the new and old members of the Clinton cabinet mixed with members of Congress and the Supreme Court. The President’s party arrived on the other side of the building and received a ceremonial escort through the halls of Congress. The President emerged into the sunlight of his second inauguration shortly before the appointed hour of noon. (music in background) Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia is chairman of the Inaugural Committee.
SEN. JOHN WARNER, Chairman, Congressional Inaugural Committee: Our first President, George Washington, was inaugurated in 1789. Thereafter, every four years our citizens have witnessed this transition of authority as required by the Constitution of the United States. It is the conferring of this trust and authority which has occurred without any interruption for 208 years that is the cornerstone of our representative democracy.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Warner introduced the Rev. Billy Graham who gave the blessing.
REV. BILLY GRAHAM: We ask that as a people we may humble ourselves before you and seek your will for our lives and for this great nation help us in our nation to work as never before to strengthen our families and to give our children hope and a moral foundation for the future.
KWAME HOLMAN: That was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
SPOKESMAN: One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
KWAME HOLMAN: And an original composition performed by the Marine Band and sung by the gospel choir of Washington, D.C..
KWAME HOLMAN: Then it was on to the main business of the day. Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was called upon to deliver the oath of office to Vice President Al Gore, Jr..
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: And that I will well and faithfully discharge–
JUDGE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: The duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: –the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter.
JUDGE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: So help me, God.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: So help me, God.
JUDGE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: Every good wish, Mr. Vice President. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: And at five minutes past noon Chief Justice William Rehnquist swore in William Jefferson Clinton for his second term as President of the United States.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST: I, William Jefferson Clinton, do solemnly swear–
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I, William Jefferson Clinton, do solemnly swear–
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST: –that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: –that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST: And will to the best of my ability–
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And will to the best of my ability–
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST: –preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: —preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST: So help me, God.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: So help me, God.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Good luck. (applause and music)
KWAME HOLMAN: The President’s inaugural speech, like his campaign speeches, was focused on the America of the 21st century, using themes of community, civility, and racial harmony.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: My fellow citizens, at this last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, let us lift our eyes toward the challenges that await us in the next century. It is our great good fortune that time and chance have put us not only at the edge of a new century in a new millennium but on the edge of a bright new prospect in human affairs, a moment that will define our course and our character for decades to come. Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a new spirit of community for a new century. For any one of us to succeed we must succeed as one America.
The challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future. Will we be one nation, one people, with one common destiny, or not? Will we all come together or come apart? The divide of race has been America’s constant curse. And each new wave of immigrants give new targets to old prejudices–prejudice and contempt “in the pretense of religious or political convictions are not different.” These forces have nearly destroyed our nation in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror, and they torment the lives of millions in fractured nations all around the world.
These obsessions cripple both those who hate and, of course, those who are hated, robbing both of what they might become. We cannot, we will not succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the soul everywhere. We shall overcome them. (applause) This is the heart of our task. With a new vision of government, a new sense of responsibility, a new spirit of community, we will sustain America’s journey. The promise we sought in a new land we will find again in a land of new promise. From the height of this place and the summit of this century let us go forth. May God strengthen our hands for the good work ahead and always, always bless our America. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: The President’s second inaugural address lasted twenty-two minutes, eight minutes longer than his first one. A luncheon with congressional leaders didn’t end until almost 3 PM. From there, it was back to the White House, the President’s limousine in the midst of the inaugural procession. A block from the White House and to chants of “We want Bill,” the Clinton’s emerged from their car and walked the rest of the way down Pennsylvania Avenue, taking their seats in the reviewing stands to watch the parade. (music playing)