Betti S. Whaley didn't just bask in her moment, she worked the room hard, shaking hands and hugging old friends in the receiving line. More than 200 people turned out last night to toast her as she succeeds Jerome W. Page as president of the Washington Urban League, a 1,700-member nonpartisan civil rights organization.

She busied herself introducing the many corporate representatives to Urban League board members. "I know better than to discuss absolute action plans at a reception," Whaley told the crowd. "But we as a people have learned how to survive, and I call it surviving in spite of the odds. We're going to carry out our mandate to the community . . . become more self-sufficient to carry out the programs necessary for the survival of minorities in this city."

Mayor Marion Barry, wearing a red "Washington is a Capital City" button, arrived toward the end of the reception and hugged Whaley. "This really makes my day," Whaley said, laughing. Barry's aide, Annette Samuels, said the mayor is leaving today for the Super Bowl game, as the guest of Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.). Other Barry administration members attending the reception included City Council members David Clarke, Betty Ann Kane, Hilda Mason and Charlene Drew Jarvis.

"We're just looking forward to four years of hard work and commitment . . . Betti doesn't mind hard work, she's accustomed to it: 12, 15, 17 hours, eight days a week," Barry told the crowd, while Whaley laughed loudly. Barry added that his administration would work closely with the Washington Urban League. "During these hard times, and these are not normal times, we need to turn to each other."