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Clinton Sworn In for Second TermBy Ron Fournier
Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 20, 1997; 4:54 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Setting a new course for a new century, William Jefferson Clinton claimed his second term today, issuing a passionate call for racial and political unity. "We must succeed as one America," the president told an inaugural crowd packing the flag-decked Capitol grounds.
With his left hand on a dog-eared family Bible, Clinton raised his right hand and swore the same 35-word oath taken by every president since George Washington. With that, he stood poised to be the first president of the 21st century.
As cannons fired off a 21-gun salute, Clinton turned and hugged first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their 16-year-old daughter. He pecked them both on their cheeks as the applause swelled -- then kissed them again.
Moments earlier, Al Gore took the vice presidential oath. He hopes to succeed Clinton, who became the first Democrat in 60 years to celebrate two inaugurals. Clinton, 50, cannot serve another term.
Washington's hierarchy -- from Clinton's Cabinet to members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, military leaders, foreign ambassadors and political VIPS -- gathered in front of the gleaming Capitol dome to witness the start of Clinton's second term.
"Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a new spirit of community for a new century," Clinton said. "For any of us to succeed, we must succeed as one America."
In his 22-minute address, Clinton promised a government "humble enough" not to try to solve all the nation's ills yet "strong enough" to help Americans improve their own lots. He called it a "blessed land of New Promise."
Afterward, the president ducked into a limousine -- with a license plate reading ``USA1 -- and slowly drove the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route to the White House. Clinton shouted greetings from a microphone inside the car. Spectators waved American flags and cheered themselves hoarse.
Within sight of the White House, the first family emerged from the motorcade to walked the final stretch beneath sunny skies and a rain of confetti.
Floats representing turning points in American history were rolling past the president's bullet-proof reviewing stand. The thump, thump, thump of school bands filled the air.
Belying the wintry weather, a float from Hawaii was adorned with real orchids. The palm trees were fake.
Keeping with the day's conciliatory theme, Clinton nemesis House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the Clintons over lunch, ``While we may disagree about some things, here you are among friends.''
As the first act of his second term, Clinton signed a proclamation that declared today a national day of ``hope and renewal.'' Hitting the ground running, Clinton plans to address two sticky issues Tuesday: the budget deficit and campaign finance reform.
On this wind-chilled day, choirs and soloists set the scene of Clinton's swearing in; the crowd swayed to opera singer Jessye Norman's stirring rendition of "America the Beautiful." Throughout it all, Clinton shook his head and smiled.
Hundreds of thousands of people, braving near-freezing temperatures in mufflers and thermal underwear, poured into the nation's capital for a glimpse of history.
``This represents fulfillment of the American dream for me,'' said Anderson Neal of Hope, Ark., Clinton's hometown.
His wife, Marietha, jumped up and down in the chill, and said, ``We just want him to keep doing what he's doing.''
For Clinton, the ceremony was a poignant reminder of his beloved mother, Virginia Kelley, who had stood nearby as he was sworn in as president four years ago; she died a year later.
``The president and I miss Virginia very much, particularly at a time like this,'' said Dick Kelley, the president's stepfather.
The first family began its day in worship at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church seven blocks from the White House. With his eyes raised toward the ceiling, Clinton joined the choir in a thunderous version of ``Holy, Holy, Holy.''
Keeping with Clinton's plea for reconciliation along racial and ethnic lines, Arkansas poet Miller Williams wrote a verse for the swearing in:
``Who were many people coming together/cannot become one people falling apart.''
Throughout the day, Clinton paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader whose birthday is honored today.
Right on cue, the sun peeked out behind puffy white clouds as Clinton slipped off his overcoat and took the oath of office from Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. ``Good luck,'' the justice said. It was 12:05 p.m., five minutes later than scheduled.
He started his second inaugural speech the same way he began his first: ``My fellow citizens.'' But from there it bore little resemblance to the speech four years ago that demanded ``dramatic change'' and vowed to wield the power of government to better America.
"We need a government for a new century," Clinton said today. "A government that is smaller, lives within its means and does more with less."
In a gesture of bipartisanship, Republicans praised Clinton's address -- though some questioned his sincerity.
``I think he certainly gave a Republican-oriented speech but time will tell whether or not he means it or it was rhetoric,'' said Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Unity was the theme throughout. Racism is America's ``constant curse,'' he said, and immigrants are ``constant targets to old persecutions.''
``We cannot -- we will not -- succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the soul, everywhere,'' he said.
He promised to heed voters' desire for bipartisanship in Washington. ``They call on us ... to repair the breach, and to move on with America's eternal mission,'' he said.
Casting a shadow over the second-term celebrations are legal and ethical problems lingering from the first term: Whitewater, questionable fund raising, the piles of FBI files and the sexual harassment allegations of Paula Jones.
Four years ago, Clinton swept in from Arkansas promising bold action and cleaner government. The economy was weak, the federal government was $4 trillion in debt and a world of foreign policy problems awaited his attention.
The economy recovered, budget deficits have ebbed and hopes for stability have grudgingly taken root in Bosnia, the Middle East, Haiti and Northern Ireland.
Still, Clinton lost his Democratic majority in Congress, saw his plan to revamp health care fail and learned to repress the part of his nature that demanded ``dramatic change'' in his first inaugural address. He won re-election on a platform of bite-sized, low-cost initiatives, such as helping schools require student uniforms.
Left for later will be details of his other goals: balance the budget, move millions from welfare to work, help improve schools and strengthen campaign finance laws.
© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press