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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."
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.
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."
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
"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.
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."
W. Bush's Inaugural Address