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George Bush Sworn in as 41st President, Declares He Will 'Use Power to Help People'

By David Hoffman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 21, 1989; Page A01

George Herbert Walker Bush took the oath of office as the nation's 41st president yesterday in a windswept ceremony at the Capitol where he summoned Americans to "make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world."

On a day of plunging temperatures, grand pageantry and deep emotion, Bush bade farewell to his mentor, Ronald Reagan, and began to set the tone for a presidency that he vowed will "use power to help people."

Declaring that "a new breeze is blowing" in the nation and the world, he vowed to seek a "new engagement" with Congress and to continue "the new closeness" with the Soviet Union.

Bush celebrated the relative peace and prosperity he inherits, but he exhorted the nation to rise above greed and materialism and to heal the long-ago partisan wounds of the Vietnam war. Invoking his "thousand points of light" campaign theme, he urged the country to reach out to the homeless, poor children and "those who cannot free themselves of enslavement to whatever addiction -- drugs, welfare, demoralization that rules the slums."

In an address that reflected much about his life and approach to the presidency, Bush promised continuity but also declared independence from the Reagan years with the "new breeze is blowing" refrain in his speech. "A nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on," he said. "There is new ground to be broken and new action to be taken."

Bush also issued an appeal to those holding Americans hostage abroad. "There are today Americans who are held against their will in foreign lands, and Americans who are unaccounted for," he said. "Assistance can be shown here, and will be long remembered. Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on."

Surrounded throughout the day by members of his family and hundreds of his friends, Bush displayed a low key, almost humble style. "Some see leadership as high drama, and the sound of trumpets calling. And sometimes it is that," Bush said. "But I see history as a book with many pages . . . . Today a chapter begins: a small and stately story of unity, diversity and generosity, shared, and written, together."

Whether hoisting up one of his 10 grandchildren, or waving enthusiastically to the crowds along the parade route as he three times left the presidential limousine and walked, his scarf askew and his eyes darting across the crowd as he seemed to search for familiar faces, Bush was filled with energy and spontaneity. His hair was tossed by the wind and his familiar crooked smile flashed often as he arrived at the observation stand to find his grandchildren playing with a toy robot.

He told a congressional luncheon that after the swearing-in ceremony, as he was walking through the Capitol with the Reagans, the sergeant at arms of the House called out "Mr. President." He paused, not realizing he was now president. "And I feel something that was between an affectionate hug and kidney punch -- the Silver Fox, telling me to get going." (The Silver Fox is a family nickname for Barbara Bush.)

Bush opened his inaugural address with a tribute to Reagan, who put him on the Republican ticket eight years ago and who set the stage for Bush's own rise to the presidency. "There is a man here who earned a lasting place in our hearts, and in our history," Bush said. "President Reagan, on behalf of our nation, I thank you for the wonderful things you have done for America."

Reagan left a note for Bush in the Oval Office desk as he left, which he characterized as "very good wishes." When reporters asked Reagan whether he had farewell words for the nation, he responded "Keep the faith" as he walked through the doors of the White House for the last time as president. Bush, who returned Reagan's salute as the former president climbed the steps of his helicopter, said he had to hold back tears at the farewell.

Unlike Reagan, who took office as the Iranian hostage crisis reached its dramatic conclusion, Bush devoted the day to the pomp and circumstance of the transfer of power. There was little official business and no major decisions were announced. Bush put his signature to the nomination of 17 Cabinet members and administration advisers and signed a proclamation making Sunday a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.

Although he promised in the campaign to name his budget negotiators on "day one" of his presidency, White House chief of staff John H. Sununu said Bush will wait until a meeting with the congressional leadership next week.

Bush, 64, the first sitting vice president elected to succeed a president since Martin Van Buren in 1837, was sworn in at 12:03 p.m. by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. The president, wearing a blue pin-striped business suit, white shirt and silver tie, raised his right hand and held his left hand on two open Bibles, one of them on which George Washington took the oath 200 years before, and the other belonging to the Bush family. The Bibles, held by Barbara Bush, were open to Matthew, Chapter 5, which opens with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Watching nearby was his 87-year-old mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, his five children and more than 200 members of his family.

Moments before, Dan Quayle, 41, was sworn in as the nation's 44th vice president by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Quayle, formerly an Indiana senator, was joined by his wife, Marilyn, and their three children.

From his first words, Bush suggested the kind of familiarity he enjoys with Congress, where he served four years. "Hey Jack, Danny," he said, apparently spotting lawmakers he knew.

"We meet on democracy's front porch," Bush said in his address. "A good place to talk as neighbors and as friends. For this is a day when our nation is made whole, when our differences are, for a moment, suspended."

Bush said his "first act as president" would be a prayer, which aides later said he had written. "Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: 'Use power to help people.' For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but just one use of power, and it is to serve people," he said.

"I come before you and assume the presidency at a moment rich with promise," Bush said. "We live in a peaceful, prospering time, but we can make it better."

Bush suggested that his presidency begins at a time when totalitarianism is ebbing. "For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient lifeless tree.

"Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy," he said. Much as he did in the campaign that won him the presidency, Bush celebrated this movement as a reaffirmation of American supremacy and responsibility. "We know what works: Freedom works," he said. "We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on earth -- through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state."

Referring to the relaxed superpower tensions that characterized Reagan's second term, Bush said "we will continue the new closeness with the Soviet Union, consistent both with our security and with progress. One might say that our new relationship in part reflects the triumph of hope and strength over experience. But hope is good, and so is strength. And vigilance."

Bush, who is likely to emphasize foreign policy in the early months of his presidency, said, "To the world . . . we offer new engagement and a renewed vow: We will stay strong to protect the peace. The 'offered hand' is a reluctant fist; one made, strong and can be used with great effect."

Bush did not dwell on foreign policy, however; for the most part, his address was a description of how he would like to take the nation away from confrontation, and toward conciliation and compromise. The speech was drafted with help from Peggy Noonan, who aided Bush in the major addresses of his campaign as well.

A child of privilege, Bush urged the nation to reject the materialism that some social critics have said was a dominant feature of the Reagan years. "Have we changed as a nation, even in our time? " he asked. "Are we enthralled with material things, less appreciative of the nobility of work and sacrifice?"

"My friends, we are not the sum of our possessions," he added. "They are not the measure of our lives. In our hearts, we know what matters. We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.

"And what do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we're no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better -- and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship."

Bush said no president or government could teach these lessons, but that he wanted to "celebrate the quieter, deeper successes that are made not of gold and silk but of better hearts and finer souls."

Describing his philosophy, Bush said, "I take as my guide the hope of a saint. In crucial things -- unity; in important things -- diversity; in all things, generosity." He did not identify the saint he was quoting, and aides later could not. However, he appeared to be paraphrasing the motto of Richard Baxter, a 17th century Puritan dissident from the Anglican Church, which was, "In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity."

In a reference to festering domestic social problems that have gained increased attention in recent years, Bush said "we have work to do" in helping the homeless "lost and roaming," children "who have nothing," and others who are wanting -- drug addicts, those on welfare, young women "who are about to become mothers of children they can't care for and might not love."

But Bush rejected at the outset any large federal government spending effort to reach these people, saying it did not work and "our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down."

Instead, Bush appealed to volunteerism as a solution. "I am speaking of a new engagement in the lives of others, a new activism, hands-on, involved -- that gets the job done," he said. Echoing the lessons his parents taught him as a young man, Bush urged the country to follow the "timeless" ideals of "duty, sacrifice, commitment . . . . "

Bush also extended his "new engagement" theme to the Congress, which was often at odds with Reagan. "We need compromise; we have had dissension," he said. "We need harmony; we have had a chorus of discordant voices." Bush attributed the divisions on Capitol Hill to the Vietnam era. "That war cleaves us still," he said, insisting that "the final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long afford to be sundered by a memory."

To symbolize his willingness to work with Congress, where Democrats stregthened their control in the last election, Bush said "old bipartisanship must be made new again." "I put out my hand," he said, turning to House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) as he repeated, "I'm putting out my hand to you."

"This is the age of the offered hand," he declared. "Let us negotiate soon, and hard. But in the end, let us produce. The American people await action. They didn't send us here to bicker."

© Copyright 1989 The Washington Post Company

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