Walter Washington and Bob Linowes gave their farewells yesterday to the area's business leaders.

And the central theme of each man's comments was identical, even if their approach was different. Washington and Linowes said rather modestly that any accomplishments under their leadership should be considered but a foundation upon which their successors can seek to build a thriving new center of commerce, finance and people.

"The job is just beginning," said outgoing D.C. Mayor Washington, soon to be succeeded by City Council member Marion S. Barry Jr. "The next period of time . . . will be an entirely new dimension . . . Barry is going to need each and every one of you . . . Your commitment must take everybody along the road. The health of the city depends on opportunity for all," Washington said in an emotional pitch for the city that was reminiscent of recent campaigning.

R. Robert Linowes, outgoing president of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade said: "We are learning to walk before we run . . . more than anything else, we are a community in transition . . . for every one of our accomplishments we will discover a new challenge. We must make very certain that our new promise does not blind us to the problems and unfinished business which remains."

Both were speaking at the Board of Trade's annual luncheon meeting in the Sheraton Part Hotel, where the board initiated a special recognition of persons and institutions that contribute to to building bonds between the broader community's various sectors.

Mayor Washington was named the first individual recipient of the "golden link" awards for "leadership, dedication and vision [that] strengthened the city and the area," while the Washington Metro system was given an institutional award for literally several hundred of the area's top busi-subway.

Washington, responding with admitted emotion before an audience of bringing people together by bus and ness executives, said he is leaving office with a "little surplus," enough to pay off Robert F. Kennedy Stadium construction bonds, issued 18 years ago.

The question about unpaid stadium bonds has dogged city leaders and provided ammunition for charges that the sports facility was nothing but a "white elephant," Washington noted after yesterday's lunch. Almost $20 million of the bonds were issued in 1960, but no principal was paid, although annual interest payments were made.

Placing the stadium on a sound financial footing has thought to be necessary for attracting 9 major league baseball team, and one businessman in yesterday's audience was Madison Square Garden Corp. President Sonny Werblin, whose firm recently purchased the Washington Diplomats of the North American Soccer League. Gulf & Western, the parent company of Madison Square Garden, reportedly is interested in bringing a major league baseball team here.

Washington also said yesterday that he had acted unilaterally recently to secure more sewer capacity for the District, despite suburban opposition, to give successor Barry room for economic growth. "We're doing it in the spirit of friendship and love . . . while we continue to build," he declared.

Linowes, a lawyer who will be succeeded as head of the region's principal business group on Jan. 1 by developer Oliver T. Carr Jr., presided over a year during which the Board of Trade assumed a more vigorous role in community problems and entered politics formally for the first time, setting up committees in D.C. Maryland and Virginia to make donations to various candidates.

He said yesterday that the coalition of area groups that supported a proposed downtown convention center amounted to an "unprecedented" force for community good. "If these forces are at times on opposite sides of any given issue, we at least know they can be allied on certain questions . . . it bodes well," Linowes stated.

The images of the District keep changing in the minds of people elsewhere, he noted. It was called, in succeeding years: A sleepy southern enclave, the seat of federal power, a dateline but not a city, the crime capital, the symbol of big government."and piled upon all of these notions is the newest perception - that we are a boom towm."

Concluded Linowes: "What we have actually become is a city. It has been a proud transition. We do not want to halt this process. But neighter can we afford to pursue it as though it were an idle and unplanned journey toward prosperity."