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As a bone-chilling drizzle fell on Washington, D.C., George W. Bush was inaugurated as the 43rd president of the United States, surrounded by both his strongest supporters and his most embittered detractors.

In the crowd, Texans, many conspicuous in fur coats, cowboy hats and rhinestone pins, walked unfazed past homemade signs declaring "Shame" and "Not My President."

"I'm thrilled to see George W. Bush inaugurated," said Betty Jo Tompkins, of Tampa Bay, Florida, trying to keep her hairdo dry and her dainty heeled shoes out of the mud. "It's truly a gift by God to live in this country."

Even those who hadn't voted for Bush seemed anxious for his presidency to succeed. "I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best," said Dayna Lane, a Gore supporter from Arlington, Va., who brought her 7-year-old granddaughter to see the new president.

"Unfortunately there are a lot of people in this country who don't think Bush deserves to be president," said Kevin O'Connor of Washington, D.C.

Bush's words, booming out over the National Mall, seemed intended to reach out to those very people.
"While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise -- even the justice -- of our own country," Bush said. "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. We do not accept this, and will not allow it…Everyone belongs, everyone deserves a chance."

In a brief speech peppered with Biblical allusions and references to God, Bush laid out a few familiar, general goals: lower taxes, continued economic growth, a stronger military, better schools.

The new president made a point of acknowledging America's history of slavery and of reaching out to immigrants -- ideas not traditionally associated with the Republican Party. "Every immigrant, by embracing these [shared] ideals, makes our country more, not less, American," he said.

Bush acknowledged that the nation's history was not a perfect one, but rather "a story of flawed and fallible people." He also indicated he would look outside the government for solutions to problems such as deep poverty. "Compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government," Bush said. "And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a mentor's touch or a pastor's prayer."

Broderick Huggins, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Oxnard, Calif., said he and his wife were looking for just such a message of inclusiveness and unity.
"We hope he addresses the issue of racism," Huggins said. "We are encouraged by the diversity of his cabinet and the way he has reached out to people of all races and religions."

"All of the votes should have been counted, but this is the system," Huggins added. "If he's the president, then that's who we follow."

But several contentious issues already seemed to dog his nascent presidency. At several points along the parade route, shouts of protesters and boos momentarily drowned out the marching bands and cheers.

A sea of protest signs demanded protection of abortion rights and the environment -- issues on which Bush and his appointees may seek to change current policy.

Many demonstrators were still angry about the way the election was resolved. Guillermo Serrano and Art Vandalay, college students from Chicago, drove all night to register their protests at the inauguration.
"I don't like the way Bush was elected," said Vandalay. "His brother -- the secretary of state -- the votes that didn't get counted. It was ridiculous all around. It was ugly."

A group of 7th and 8th graders from Satz public school in Holmdel, N.J., had a varied list of goals for the new president, from improving election procedures to solving the Middle East crisis, to reducing the number of homeless people and protecting the environment. "Once it's gone, you can't get it back," one girl said.

"I just want him to do what he promised," said Albert Hoover, a retired machinist and grandfather of six from Sayre, Pa. "We could use some lower taxes."

"I'm looking forward to Bush restoring conservative values," agreed his son, Albert, Jr. of Fairfax Station, Va. "But I didn't have a really good feeling about how the election ended. It didn't look very good. You ended up feeling it was more of an estimate than your vote really counting. I hope they fix that."

 

George W. and Laura Bush

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George W. Bush's Inaugural Address

Interviews with Inauguration spectators

RealAudio

George W. Bush's Inaugural Address

George W. Bush takes the Oath of Office

Vice-President Dick Cheney takes the oath of office

NewsHour Coverage

Final thoughts on today's events from NewsHour regulars.

RealAudio: Thousands of demonstrators gather to protest the inauguration of George W. Bush.

RealAudio: NewsHour Historians and Shields and Gigot discuss the meaning of today's events.

RealAudio: NewsHour Historians discuss inaugurations past.

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