President George W. Bush stressed American unity and urged Americans to serve their neighbors at his inauguration Saturday.
Despite rainy, barely above freezing weather, hundreds of thousands of onlookers gathered in front of the Capitol to witness the inauguration.
“Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment,” Bush said. “It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.”
GW students braved soggy conditions to take advantage of the nearby inaugural events this weekend.
“This is one of the only schools in the country where you can walk out of your dorm and head down to the mall to watch an inauguration,” GW junior Adam Zambuto said. Zambuto attended Clinton’s second inauguration and arrived at about 9:30 a.m. to get a good spot for what he hoped would be an equally exciting event.
D.C.’s Metro system was packed early in the day as people from around the country made their way to Capitol Hill hoping for a good view of the historical event. Many students said they attended the inauguration merely for the uncommon experience.
Shortly after taking the oath of office, George W. Bush made his first speech as president. In his 14-minute inaugural address, Bush focused on the themes of civility, courage and responsibility of individual citizens.
“Our national courage has been clear in times of depression and war, when defending common dangers defined our common good,” Bush said. “Now we must choose if the example of our fathers and mothers will inspire us or condemn us. We must show courage in a time of blessing by confronting problems instead of passing them on to future generations.”
Students in the audience presented mixed reactions to Bush’s speech.
“It was a succinct speech that was simple and refined, and for someone who is touted as a bad speaker, I think he did very well,” Harvard University freshman John Kachichian said.
Other students expressed disappointment with the presentation of Bush’s speech and the overall ceremony. A number of students said they were offended by the amount of religious content in the ceremony, mostly from the invocation prayer by Franklin Graham and the closing benediction by Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell.
Others said they thought the speech was generic, uninspiring, and dry.
GW freshman Taran Barca-Hall described the speech as “non-descript garbage.”
Echoing Barca-Hall’s sentiments, sophomore Jamie Kramer depicted
the speech as flowery and predictable.
“His whole morality, be a good person speech is just what I expected,” she said.
Democratic and Republican leaders, including D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate leaders took to the stage. Several Supreme Court justices and former presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush also joined the ceremony.
Senator and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and First Lady Laura Bush attended the swearing in. Just before Vice President Dick Cheney took the oath of office, Bill Clinton and Al Gore made their final appearance as president and vice president, receiving a mix of applause and boos from the Mall crowd.
Bush’s call for unity was lost on thousands of protesters who took to nearby streets toting signs bearing slogans like “End Political Bribery,” and “You Are Not My President,” while some demonstrators chanted “Bush and Cheney go away; racist, sexist, anti-gay!”
Protesters set up permitted demonstration points along the inaugural parade route to capture the attention of the new president on his way to the White House.
Bush concluded his speech by touching on a few issues on the forefront of his political agenda, including Social Security and Medicare reform. He also mentioned his proposed tax cut which drew an enormous cheer from supporters.
“The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom,” he said. “We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.”